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Amanda Reed
I like quick wit, short stories, and old movies.

Sometime in early January, a dear sister-from-another-mister called with a proposition.

“Do you wanna maybe write about some art?”

Kristin is the type who firmly knew what she was going to do with her heart and hands — and that’s to use them to make art — when we were 6 years old, in Mrs. Moran’s elementary-school “studio.” (At this stage, I could barely tie my smock.)

It’s a gift to grow into adulthood being the very thing you said you wanted to be when you grow up. …

I live in a pocket of Northwest DC situated so close to Smithsonian National Zoological Park, I can hear African lions roar from my apartment.

The sound is low and enormous and disarming. It booms and arcs, sending vibrations for miles. There’s nothing like it. Even the familiar, on-screen yawp of the MGM cat, keeper of the cinephile kingdom, pales in comparison.

To say I didn’t fully appreciate this primal, backyard symphony before the onset of coronavirus would be wholly inaccurate. It served as more of an exotic fun fact — an antidote to banal small talk and a special…

There’s a lake in Central Massachusetts with a moniker that stretches 45 (or 49) letters long, depending on who you ask.

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

It’s as revered as it is ridiculous. I know of its lore because of Frank DeMello. He was my fifth-grade teacher.

The room roared when he tried, in vain, to teach us how to pronounce it. He demonstrated with large, perforated signs to denote each of the dozens of syllables. Half the class had to help him hold them up.

Maybe we’d get it by the end of the school year, he conceded.

Mr. DeMello — “Mr…

My Great-Aunt’s Last Gifts

In the early-morning hours of December 14, the Extra-Ordinary Birthdays headquarters in College Park, Maryland, became collateral damage when an arsonist targeted a neighboring business.

The collaborative workshop, think-space, and gift-and-supply repository that served genesis to all of the custom birthday celebrations for the homeless children and families EOB serves was now rubble and ruin.

Five days later, on December 19, my Great-Aunt Christina McLean died in Massachusetts. …

My first-ever party planner role, circa early 1990s.

I love celebrating birthdays. No, really — I LOVE it.

The themed goody bags, the careful plotting and party planning that so precisely reflects people I care about — it’s all so fulfilling to me.

Maybe it started when Dad chose me to help blow out his candles and deliver cake slices to grandparents and party guests.

But, I think age 12 was the real game-changer: It was November, and one of my best friends — and personal heroes — was turning 13.

Jessie and I grew up on the same farm-facing street in southeastern Massachusetts, about 50 yards apart…

Bryant toddled into his second birthday party clad in a tiny dress shirt and striped tie. The table before him was bedecked with a black-and-white-checkered tablecloth, a tray of neon-frosted cupcakes, and a set of shiny new Hot Wheels ready for the racing.

Bryant’s race car-themed bash.

He glanced up at his mother for the go-ahead; when she gave him the “yup, this is for you” nod, he made a fast break for the toys and sweets.

Bryant spent the next hour giggling, crafting, and relishing mouthfuls of cake alongside party guests. He fashioned cars out of hand-painted toilet paper rolls and formed a…

Amanda Reed

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