mark birthday party | Independent Sampson



When my big brother John flew backwards leaning on the back legs of a folding metal chair, he started a chain reaction with the neighboring boys as the dominoes started to fall until the last makes a thud on the floor below.

The minister’s firstborn slapped Drew Puskarich, who was also wobbling on two legs, across the chest with his free hand as he balanced himself.

The eldest son of our neighbor to the south flew off in his chair; however, he was able to jump to his feet before the chair hit the ground by grabbing the back of his brother’s chair.

But Danny Puskarich, the youngest of the brothers, was not so fair. Ava Maria’s student arms fluttered helplessly in the air as his chair swung backwards, folding it like an accordion.

We were seated around a large folding table on the back porch, which also served as a playground in the sky, celebrating a special milestone – my sixth birthday – in the small mining town of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania.

When my mom pulled out the chocolate cake with six lit candles above the decadent treat, I was all smiles as everyone in attendance started singing the birthday song.

After briefly closing my eyes to make an annual wish, I excitedly blew the flames out on the half-dozen sticks of melting wax with wicks as everyone cheered.

This six-year-old and my two favorite pals – Johnny Puskarich and Billy Denny – grabbed two candles each and licked the delicious frosting off the bottom of the wax sticks.

Before Grandma Farrell could move the cake to the dining table, I brushed off the frosting from the delicious treat with a finger and put the large chunk in my waiting mouth.

The middle-aged woman quickly cut the cake and Aunt Sharen took out the ice cream before serving it while Aunt Margie and Dad poured the drinks for all the guests around the giant table.

Once everyone had a plate of food in front of them, Mom came over and added a handful of miniature pretzel chips and sticks to the mix. It was then that the unexpected comedy act began.

When my next door neighbor collapsed like a musical instrument, his plate of food flew into the air and overturned before hitting the ground; and to top it off, a scoop of ice cream got stuck in the wire mesh above the porch railing.

Aunt Sharen and Mum both rushed over to pull the brown haired boy out of his predicament. Fortunately, he got away without a scratch on him.

After all the party guests had finished the food on their plates, it was time for this birthday boy to open the matching brightly wrapped gifts on the gift table.

After opening a series of goodies, including a Lite Brite, a Fisher-Price toy phone, and an Etch-a-sketch, I lifted a quilt to reveal the greatest gift of all – my very own Krazy Kar.

The Three Musketeers congratulated each other before this birthday boy sat in the yellow plastic molded chair between the two large red and white wheels to take the popular toy for a test drive.

After everyone else in the party had a chance to take a ride with the popular new toy on the back porch, Mom gathered everyone around the dining table at the other end of the playground in the sky to games.

The revelers played several exciting games, including milk pins, musical statues and Pin the Tail on the Donkey, before playing Pass the Orange, the most exciting of the party event’s extracurricular activities.

“I want Johnny, Billy and Danny on my team,” I said emphatically to make my wishes known. “We’re all going to be first graders; it is therefore us against the world.

“Alright then,” Mum said, looking at the other revelers before announcing their contest. “I guess the kids will play against John, Lori, Drew and… Aunt Sharen.”

The object of the game was to hold the orange under the chin while transferring it to each teammate without using the hands until the citrus hit the end of the line.

The competition went off without a hitch as each team passed the round fruit from chin to chin until our competitors dropped the orange as it neared the end of the row of participants.

Before Aunt Sharen could scoop the citrus fruit off the ground with her mouth, Danny hid our team’s circular object under her chin after taking it from Billy for the win.

“Mark’s team wins,” the tall, slim woman said as she raised the birthday boy’s arm in the air. “Youns were the first to have the orange from start to finish without dropping it.”

My burgeoning freshman squad jumped up and down as we started singing the lyrics to “I Just Want to Celebrate,” Rare Earth’s 1971 number one hit.

“I just want to celebrate another day in my life. I just want to celebrate another day in my life.

At the end of the party, Mom asked all the whippersnappers to check the backs of their plates for a “star” to see who won the special door prize.

“Who wins the prize,” the mother of three asked as she watched all the children check under their plates. “There should be two winners in the game.”

“Wait,” Billy exclaimed, inspecting the back of his plate a little closer. “I think I have one… yes, I have a star on the back of my plate.”

“Danny has to be the other winner,” the brunette said, giving her husband a smirk. “He must have had the star under his plate of food which fell to the floor, so he takes the prize.”

Mark S. Price is a former municipal / county government education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton. If you want to read the long version of this story in his novel titled “The Little Church on Top of the Hill,” just type the title into the Facebook search engine and scroll down to Chapter 18, Mark’s Birthday Bash.


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