On December 20th, the boy turns 16.
Our birthday tradition for years has been going to Friendly's for a birthday dinner. I never was a big fan of Friendly's but it was his birthday and his choice where we went to dinner. Every year at this time, I remember the one special year when Ryan was 8. We went to neighborhood Friendly's and as we sat at our table and talked about his day at school we played tic-tac-toe on those color pages that they give kids to stop them from wreaking havoc. That year one of his gifts was a chess set. He loves the game, and we talked about him teaching me how to play. I guess at one point I must have said something about it being his birthday.
After our meal, our waitress came over and told us that our dinner was paid for - including the birthday cake that she had brought to our table. Some very nice gentleman (she pointed him out - I only saw the back of his head as he walked out the door) heard that it was a birthday dinner and our meal was on him. I was shocked. Ryan thought it was the coolest thing. We talked about what a generous thing that was for a total stranger to do as we ate his ice cream birthday cake. Then my boy did the sweetest thing. He said "Mom, can I give one of my balloons to that little boy over there? It's not his birthday but I bet he'd like it because he keeps looking at them". I looked over at a middle aged woman and a little boy about 4 years old. They were sharing a meal, and the little boys clothes seemed a bit ragged. He was smiling when I looked over at him, his mother seemed tired but she talked softly to him as she wiped his face. My eyes got teary (because even though I act like a bad-ass, I really do get emotional about stuff like this). I told him that it was a very good idea. So he gave the little boy his balloon and his face lit up. His mother thanked Ryan and she smiled at me.
As we walked out I stopped at the register and paid for their meal. Ryan asked me why I was paying if someone already bought our meal. I told him since our meal was free, I thought it would be a nice idea to give someone else a free meal too. When we got in the car, he told me that it was the best birthday dinner we've had. I know it was the most memorable for me. Not because I got a free meal, but because of that really cool feeling you get when someone does something completely unexpected...throw in that the someone was a total stranger....then do the same thing for someone else and it just doubles that feeling.
Fortunately he's grown out of Friendly's.... we're stepping it up this year and going to Fudruckers! Woo-hoo! While I won't miss the food at Friendly's, I will fondly remember the kindness of a total stranger and the impact it had on us both.