The kids at school teased him a lot. They called him “mommy’s boy” because his mother waited outside school most afternoons to walk home with him, or take the bus if they didn’t feel like walking.
Paulie’s love for his mother ran deep. She was always doing things for him, looking after him, helping him do his homework, stuff like that. And every year on his birthday she would bake him a cake and give him a present (even though they didn’t have much money) and sing “Happy Birthday” so that he could forget his troubles at least for one day.
Paulie knew the date of his mother’s birthday, but for one reason or another he never remembered in time to make her a present or a card. Her birthday would come and go and a few days later he would realize he had forgotten yet again. He would feel really bad about that, but only for a short while and then the bad feeling would go away.
One day at school it suddenly came into his head that it was his mother’s birthday that day. He was ecstatic that he had remembered. In art class he made a beautiful birthday card for her. He felt proud of himself for remembering, and he could hardly wait for school to end so he could hug his mom and wish her happy birthday.
When the bell rang to signal the end of school, Paulie ran out to the bus stop expecting to see his mother. But she wasn’t there. He was a bit disappointed, but he comforted himself with the thought of how happy she would be to get the beautiful birthday card he had made for her. He waited a few minutes, then started the long walk home.
“That’s OK” he told himself, “I’ll get home and give her a nice surprise, a big hug and a kiss and sing her happy birthday, and I’ll give her the card.”
But when he got home he found his mother lying on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood and vomit. There was a broken whiskey bottle on the floor, and the whole place stank. Paulie was very scared. He didn’t know what to do.
“Are you OK mom?” he asked.
She moaned in reply.
Paulie ran out of the house to get some help because they didn’t have a phone. He ran into the street and called out to the post-person: “Help, help, mommy’s sick, I think she’s dying!”
But the post-person said, “Sorry Paulie, your mom still owes me $200. I can’t help her anymore.”
Then Paulie saw the police-person walking down the street. Paulie called out to her: “Help, help, mommy’s sick, I think she’s dying!”
But the police-person said, “Sorry Paulie, your mom’s got a lot of unpaid fines. I can’t help her anymore.”
A fire-truck was parked on the street outside a house with a small kitten up a tree. Paulie called out to the fire-people: “Help, help, mommy’s sick, I think she’s dying!”
But one of the fire-people said, “Sorry Paulie, can’t you see we’re busy? If your mother can’t stand the heat, she should get out of the kitchen.”
Paulie ran back into the house, but his mother was already dead. He saw her in the air floating in a tunnel of light, and called out to her, “Mommy, mommy, don’t go, please don’t go!”
His Mother smiled sadly and said, “I’m sorry Paulie, it’s my time. Oh, but I almost forgot...”
Then she started singing in a soft, sweet voice, “Happy deathday to me, happy deathday to me, happy deathday dear Mommy, happy deathday to me!”
Then she was gone, and Paulie was alone in the shabby little house on the wrong side of the tracks.