Children on Their Birthdays Summary
Late one summer afternoon, an unusual-looking young girl, Miss Lily Jane Bobbit, arrives with her mother in a small, unidentified town in Alabama. The bus on which they arrive, the narrator of the story states in the opening lines, is the same one that will run over Miss Bobbit a year later as she prepares to move on, in pursuit of her dream of Hollywood stardom. Why she has chosen to settle briefly in this southern town is never revealed, and very little information about her earlier experiences is given. As for her family, her father is in a penitentiary in Tennessee; her mother is a strangely silent woman. Miss Bobbit herself, from first to last, remains an enigma, a funny, delightful, not real child-woman.
The particular day of her arrival in front of the house of a boy named Billy Bob is important: Billy Bob, his friends, his mother, and his cousin, Mr. C., the narrator of the story, are celebrating Billy Bob’s birthday. Offered some of the party fare, Miss Bobbit refuses it in an adult fashion. Simultaneously little girl and adult, she is obviously different from any ordinary child. In many ways her conversation and behavior seem grown-up. Her face is made up as if she were a mature woman, although she is wearing a child’s party dress. Both her dress and the occasion of Billy Bob’s party symbolize Miss Bobbit’s dream of what life should be: a world of beauty and happiness that is like a birthday party, particularly like children on their birthdays. Driven by her longings, she cannot take the time to be a child. She focuses all of her energy on the preparation for a dazzling existence in a place that she believes will turn her vision into reality.
During the year that she lives in a boardinghouse next door to Billy Bob and his family, Miss Bobbit becomes something of a celebrity because of her appearance, her mannerisms, and her behavior. Girls constantly walk past her house to catch glimpses of the elegant rival who keeps the boys fighting over her. Billy Bob and Preacher Star, competitors for her unavailable affection, wear themselves out trying to serve her. Rosalba Cat, the black girl whom she makes her “sister,” brings further attention to her.
No matter what people think, Miss Bobbit always does as she chooses. She chooses not to go to church or school, in spite of community pressure. Neither is for her, she maintains, because her primary interest is the advancement of her career. In pursuit of her dreams of fame, she...
(The entire section is 666 words.)