Birthday Party Deliverance
I have a tendency to err on the optimistic side, and that really came into play when planning my daughter’s third birthday party. Our home was under contract and knowing we would soon be moving from our lovely home with a backyard pool, I envisioned a swimming party, a fancier version of a playgroup meeting that I had hosted a year ago.
At the time I was planning this, my three-week-old son, Stan, was sleeping, something he only did in 2 to 3-hour intervals between eating. In my sleep-deprived brain fog, I thought -- how hard could this be? Skipping the party wasn’t an option as Samantha was the middle child and seemed to remember that her 5 -year-old brother had a birthday party with lots of kids. Instead of going to a party place (the sane options), I could get somebody to help clean the house and invite over a few moms with kids Samantha’s age. Surely he’d be sleeping longer stretches by the time we had the party.
It started well. The six moms I invited all were enthused, I got recommendations for a house cleaner, bought paper plates with balloons on them and found my daughter’s favorite cake mix – the kind with sprinkles in it.
Then the actual day came. Dark clouds rolled in – threatening rain, something that rarely happened so rarely in Texas that I hadn’t thought about that possibility. It hadn’t rained in twenty days – why today? What was I going to do with ten kids inside?
I didn’t have time to contemplate the idea of rain, as the phone rang. Our realtor had a friend that did air conditioner repairs, and guess what was the only day he could stop by to do it? “Great, I’m having a birthday party that afternoon, try to make it over before 1.” He said he’d try. I pushed it to the back of my mind -- I’d deal with it later.
With Stan sleeping and the other two watching the Barney video I kept for special occasions, I dumped the cake mix into the mixing bowl, but couldn’t find the mixer. My Mother-in-law had been visiting and was a great help. She’d used the mixer and put it back where she thought it should go. Unfortunately, my logic and hers wasn’t the same. Just a little frazzled, I called Elsie, my next-door neighbor for a loan. She laughed – saying I was a bit crazy hosting a birthday party but was happy to bring over a mixer. I finished the cake and while cleaning up, I noticed the sink was backing up.
I called a plumber, but he couldn’t get out until the next day. I crossed my fingers and hoped we could manage not to use the sink too much.
At least the house would be clean! But the woman my friend recommended was an hour late. “Just do the main things, and don’t use the kitchen sink too much. People will be here at one!” I directed as I slid the cake out of the oven. Apparently, I had forgotten to add an ingredient, because it looked a model of the sinkhole we had to drive around last week.
My daughter eyed the pan, a skeptical look replacing her previous sunny smile of anticipation. I tried to think of a quick fix. Fill it with frosting? No, it was too big a hole. This wouldn’t do for a birthday cake.
“Don’t worry, honey, we can buy one.” I tried to sound cheerful while dreading packing the three of them up for a run to the grocery store in the pouring rain. When we got there, the selection was limited, and I started craving coffee.
“Look, mom – let’s get this one!” Samantha pointed to a cake in the case. It was the right size with creamy white frosting … but the label said carrot cake. She hated vegetables! What if she didn’t like it? I quickly decided it wasn’t worth questioning and asked the lady at the counter if she could write ‘Happy Birthday” on it. She said no, the person that did that was out. My patience wore thin, and my tired eyes fought the urge to cry.
Baby Stan woke up and let out a high pitched wail. I think that was the point I wanted to crawl in a hole and close my eyes. It would feel so good.
“Here, I can put a ballerina on it.” The lady offered, probably searching for a way to quickly get me and my wailing son out of the store.
“Yes!” Came the enthusiastic answer from the birthday girl. Samantha grinned and clapped her hands. Thank goodness -- she loved ballerinas! I thanked the woman and paid for the cake. We had twenty minutes before guests arrived – just enough time to feed the baby and change clothes.
We rushed back home and walked in -- to see the cleaning woman had made no progress – she had been dusting my figurines. What had she not understood?
“Just vacuum and clean the guest bath. Then your time is up.” She moved surprisingly fast after that but was still finishing as the first guest arrived.
For two hours we had ten children under age six inside the house. They mad a mess, but it was a happy time. I was so lucky, the people I invited pitched right in -- one of the mom’s organized games, another helped hold Stan, and one helped serve the cake.
Even the repair guy, who of course arrived in the middle of the party, brought a book as a present and stayed for a piece of cake.
The party might not have been what I planned, but Samantha had enjoyed the whole thing! As I thought about it that evening, I realized that was what was important. She had friends, presents and cake with frosting. She hadn’t minded it that it rained … and didn’t even notice it was a carrot cake.