Jamie sat on his bed, while his Dad talked on the phone. In just three weeks, Jamie was going to turn seven. He couldn't wait. He was having a pirate party. He already had his costume: his ripped white T-shirt, some torn black pants that his Mom had cut jaggedly at the knee, a black eye patch, and the colorful stuffed parrot that he sometimes slept with.
Jamie loved birthdays. He loved being the center of attention, eating pizza, having his grandparents come over—his Grandma Delia made the best chocolate cake in the world. But most of all, he couldn't wait for his friends to come over so they could run around in the backyard and play in the pirate ships he and his Dad were making. Yesterday, their neighbor Cameron had told them about a refrigerator box sitting by the side of the road a few blocks away from their house. But Jamie wanted to make at least two ships and maybe have a cannonball fight. Jamie's Dad hung up the phone.
"Well, there is still one empty refrigerator box that they haven't broken down at Montgomery's Appliance store over on Fennbridge Road. That's just a mile away. I told the owner we would pick it up by noon."
"Yippee! Can we go get it now? Then we can make two ships to use for a cannonball battle at the party."
"Whoa, kiddo. How about after some breakfast? Then we'll have energy to work on making the ships once we get the box home. Now what were you going to use for cannonballs?"
"Well, I thought newspaper rolled into balls would work. They won't hurt us and we have a lot of newspaper in the living room."
Jamie's dad laughed. "We do have plenty of newspaper. I guess it's time I put some of those piles out with the recycling. But I'll set aside some for making cannonballs and then we can recycle it after the birthday party."
Just then, Jamie's mom walked into the room. "Speaking of birthdays...What do you want for your birthday?" she asked. Jamie looked around his bedroom. He spotted plastic Legos, wood and cardboard blocks, toy trucks and cars, two stuffed bears, a stuffed monkey, fish, and the parrot; a magnetic building set, his wooden train set, a magic kit, and about 10 books piled next to his bed. And that was just the stuff sitting out on the floor.
Then he said, "I don't know, Mommy. I do have lots of toys and books already. Can I think about it?"
"Of course," said his mom. "But if you want something special, let us know soon. Now how about helping me work on the party invitations while Daddy makes us some eggs? I'm getting hungry."
Jamie grabbed his polar bear from his bed and went into the study to help his mom write the invitations.
"You know, Jamie," said his mom. "We could make it a 'no presents' birthday this year if you want. Instead of bringing presents for you, you could ask your friends to donate items for an animal shelter or another charity you like."
Jamie looked at his mom. He had actually been to a "no presents" birthday. His cousin Kai who had turned 10 last August had a tropical pool party. And there were no presents. Instead, everyone had brought donations—whatever they wanted—to help save the rainforest.
But the party was a blast. They swam at the neighborhood pool, and had crazy hat relay races in the pool and dove for coins in the deep end. Jamie was on his neighborhood swim team so he could swim and dive with Kai and all his older friends. They ate mangos, pineapple, and coconuts, which Jamie loved. Kai told Jamie it was the best birthday ever, and he felt great sending a check for $200 to the Save the Rainforest Fund.
"Mommy," said Jamie. "I think a 'no presents' birthday would be good. Maybe we could have everyone donate money if they want to. Do you think we could find someone who is helping polar bears and give the money to them?"
"I bet we could," said his Mom. "We'll spend a little time researching that. How about we start with a wildlife group like World Wildlife Fund?"
"Yes," said Jamie. He hugged his polar bear. "I'd like to help the polar bears. I have enough stuff."