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Friday, November 12, 2010

Make a Wish

When you deal with little children, you break your back to ensure that they're happy, at whatever personal inconvenience of yours, or those around you.

It's a capital offense, for instance, to disturb the sleep of a baby-- at least, it is in my neck of the woods, and I suspect that it is in yours, too. And I'm not entirely convinced that it's displaced youngest child syndrome at work when I ask, "Um, why?" Why must I receive a detailed text message from my eldest sister with instructions about how I am to enter the house in which I was raised because my nephew is asleep?

"When u come over today; mom says to go around to the side of the house and tap lightly on the side door-- DO NOT use your key inside the front door in case the baby's sleeping, and DON'T CALL the office number. Thnx."

I didn't go over anyway-- I just wasn't interested. God forbid I should fart and wake the kid up.

When we were children, my parents broke their backs trying to please us, and they usually did, even though they combined to raise three of the most impossible to satisfy children that ever came around these parts. We're... particular, each in our own way. One thing they always did for each of us, to make us feel special, to make us happy, was decorate the dining room when it was time for our birthdays. When we were younger, they would surreptitiously stash decorations-- streamers mostly-- in the hall closet and, when we would feign sleep on the night before our birthdays, they would stay up late, draping the now long-gone dining room ceiling light fixture with streamers, twisted just right. Occupying the bedroom downstairs, I could hear the plastic stchrtch of the Scotch tape dispenser two rooms away as my mother and father worked together.

As we grew older, maybe perhaps we chanced to think that this tradition might stop. But, as my eldest sister turned thirty, and then forty, and the dining room was still decorated, with matching plates, napkins and cups, we knew that this was for good. Very good. Now my wife and I do it for each other, in our own home. And, last night, we went over to my family's house for my eldest sister's forty-third birthday.

Forty. Three.

Pink streamers. Pink and black spotted paper cups and plates. Pink table cloth. And there she sat, the angelfood cake covered in white icing and funfetti that she had requested from us in front of her, bathed in the light of a single candle, wishing for a full three minutes. My sister. Long, fine, blond hair parted down the center, falling in front of her ears, elegant wire-rimmed glasses gently sliding down the tip of her nose. My parents in their sweatshirts. My wife in her double hoodies, well-prepared for the frigid conditions of my old home. Me in one of my father's sweatshirts, somehow still continually ill-prepared, or resistant, or in denial, or forgetful, or impervious. Willful. Stupid. Arrogant. Silly.

The baking of the cake involved a lot of willfulness, stupidity, arrogance, and silliness. A fight with my wife. A loud one, a painful one. We're married-- it happens. Time constraints, poor planning, poorer communication-- confectioner's sugar. Pressure. Heat. Family.

It happens.

We're all in love with each other here, so it's no big deal, and this pain is part of what makes us whole, I suppose. Family birthdays are notoriously melancholy around here, and maybe it's because they revolve around memories and things or feelings that we're trying to get back to that maybe aren't possible anymore. It's hard not to get disappointed when the demons you're chasing were just so darn good.

Happy Birthday.

1 comment:

  1. If this is anything like the baking fights I used to have with my husband, confectioner's sugar can be made by processing regular sugar in the food processor, thereby saving frustration and return trips to the supermarket. And I've never thought of icing angelfood cake, I may have to try it...


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