Short just celebrated his 5th birthday, which called for multiple parties/ planning/ gifts/ guests/ grandparents/ cakes in a week-long extravaganza that made the after-Oscars-parties look like a quiet lunch date. He now believes the term “day” in birthday is merely a helpful suggestion, not an absolute, and he feels “Birthweek” or “Birthsummer” might be more apropos.
Short’s real birthday falls on July 2nd, but we soon discovered that most of our friends choose to celebrate 4th of July by going to the beach for a week over going to a child’s party for two hours. Since we did not want Short to feel like a social pariah, we opted to have his party a week before all his friends left on vacation.
He invited everyone he knew. They all showed up. They played in the yard and ate homemade cupcakes. Fabulous presents were involved.
In summary, Short’s party was the “It” event in Crazy Town, and possibly the Western Hemisphere.
For the following Saturday (his actual birthday), The Husband informed me that we would be hosting an impromptu encore performance for the grandparents. I didn’t mind too much, until The Husband innocently mentioned the part about cake.
“The cupcakes you made were so delicious. Are you planning to make the same kind again?”
I immediately flashed back to my recent cupcake baking experience:
Scene One: Happy Mommy Makes Birthday Cupcakes
Scene Two: Tired Mommy Still Not Done Yet
“But MOV, you’re such a great baker!” he insisted. “Don’t you want to make a special cake for our son’s 5th birthday? He would really love it.”
The Guilt Monster slithered into the room.
“You make the very best cupcakes in the whole world, MOV, everyone says so. You have to make them, if you don’t the universe will collapse and people will cry. Lives will be ruined, and some people might lose their jobs. Or die. A lot.”
But I knew exactly how to make the Guilt Monster retreat:
“No, Short wouldn’t love it?” asked The Husband, confused.
“No, I don’t want to make them. I’m exhausted. I can’t do all this twice in a row.”
“No. Forget it. I’ll take Short to the bakery tomorrow and he can order whatever he likes.” The Guilt Monster lay in a withered, lifeless heap on the living room rug. I stepped over him, careful not to trip.
The next day, as promised, I took Short to the bakery.
“Pick out whichever kind of cake you like, Short, and hand the nice lady Pop’s credit card.”
“Any kind? Out of all these choices?” His eyes lit up. “Can I have … lemon?”
“Sure, lemon is fine. Whatever you like.” I smiled at Short while his blue eyes reflected the myriad sugar-filled concoctions from behind the bakery glass.
“No, I mean strawberry,” he corrected.
“Sounds great!” I cheered, “Strawberry it is.”
“I changed my mind, Mommy, strawberry is yucky. I like vanilla.”
I wondered if indecisiveness was a four-year-old trait that would hopefully be outgrown by Saturday.
“Sweetie, time to make up your mind. The lady is waiting. Tell her what you want.”
“I’ll have lemon chiffon with layers of meringue inside, alternating with raspberry, and coated in white fondant icing, with blue piping, and maybe some car decorations, please.”
He was most definitely the child of a Virgo.
We handed over the credit card and took our receipt. On the top of the receipt in red letters it read, “Sat—3 PM.”
The big day appeared, and so did the Guilt Monster. “You never got Short a present,” said Guilt Monster guilt-inducingly. “Throwing the party doesn’t count.”
I zipped out to Target to find a small gift for Short. Guilt Monster clicked his seatbelt in place. “What are you doing back there?” I asked, glaring at him in my rearview mirror. “If you’re going to go with me, you might as well sit up front.”
“Ha!” Guilt Monster half-laughed, “You know I can’t backseat drive from the front seat. I’m fine back here.”
Forty-five minutes and $60 later, I returned home with a Hot Wheels truck set. It was already 4:50 PM, and the bakery was going to close at 5.
“MOV, did you pick up the cake while you were out?” queried The Husband.
“No, uh, I’ll dash out and grab it right now.” Guilt Monster volunteered to drive.
We pulled up just as the girl was closing the front door.
“CanIgetmycake?” I asked, breathless.
“Is it prepaid? Do you have your receipt?”
“Yes, here it is.”
She looked at it, then disappeared to the back kitchen.
She returned a moment later holding a square white box tied neatly with a tan ribbon.
“Here you go,” she said, handing me the box. “I hope your daughter loves it!”
“Son,” I corrected. Who in their right mind would name their daughter Short? Short was obviously a boy's name.
“Okay, well, happy birthday to him then.”
By the time I got back to the house, The Husband’s parents were already there. Short was opening yet another round of gifts. I snuck past him and hurriedly put the white box in our extra refrigerator in the garage.
After dinner, it was time for cake. The Husband brought the bakery box in and asked where our glass cake stand was.
“It should be in the pantry; I’ll take care of it,” I began, “You just go sit down with everyone.”
“Did you get candles?”
I wasn’t sure if The Husband said that or the Guilt Monster, but I did have candles so they both left.
I took a damp paper towel and quickly wiped down the glass cake stand, internally congratulating myself on yet another wise purchase from the high-end kitchen store. We used this cake stand for every birthday, party, holiday, and special occasion that popped up. It was lovely and elegant, and made me feel like Martha Stewart.
I heard The Husband chatting with his parents in the dining room. He had already cleared all the dinner dishes and was laying out the dessert plates and forks, one by one.
I wondered to myself if we had any doilies. A paper lace doily would really make the cake look fantastic on the special cake stand. I thought I might have a few in the bottom drawer. Then I caught myself: this was for my little BOY’S party. I vetoed the doily idea as too feminine.
I set the blue birthday candles on the counter, including a big neon green “5” candle. I cut the ribbon with my kitchen scissors, peeled the tape off the bakery box with my fingernail, and carefully lifted up the lid. Inside was one of the most beautiful and elaborate cakes I had ever seen.
My brain was swimming with questions: Why hadn’t I looked at the cake when I was at the bakery? What was I going to do now? Who the hell was Daniella and why did she have a white unicorn fetish?
I could hear my impatient family members rustling around in the next room. I could glimpse Short’s sweet expectant face. How on Earth was I going to explain this to him? Should I just announce the truth: Mommy screwed up and got the wrong cake?
I did the only thing I could: nothing.
It was absolutely too late to fix this ordeal, so the best I could do was scrape off Daniella’s name and hope for the best. The little white unicorns looked so very Disney princess—I winced. Perhaps it would be an improvement if I removed those. After I attempted to take a few off, I realized the baker had cemented them in fairly well and I was just smearing more black and pink icing everywhere. I stuck them back in as well as I could.
“MOV? Is everything okay in there?” called out my mother-in-law.
“Just lighting the candles!” I cried, looking around for Guilt Monster to take the blame. Not surprisingly, he had vanished.
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,” I began to sing, praying for this all to be a really bad dream or at least over soon, “Happy birthday, dear Short …”
Everyone was singing and clapping. The Husband had turned off the lights so the candles would show up better. No one could tell just yet that the cake I was trying to pass off for my son’s 5th birthday was a Pepto-Bismol Pinkarama Unicornfest.
Everyone in the room gasped as Short got his first good look at the cake his devoted Mommy had lovingly taken him to the bakery to special order.
“Mommy!” he shrieked. “This is not the cake I ordered!”
“This! Is! So! Much! Better! It is a raspberry-flavored Pokemon Killing Horse Level 5! Legendary! Killing! Death Star Millennium! That is the rarest one, right, Tall?”
Tall was in such awe and disbelief at the confectionery monstrosity before him, he didn’t know what to say.
“Yeah,” he murmured, “yeah.”
“Mommy, thank you! I love Pokemon! How did you know? Did you tell the bakery lady to do this? This is the best birthday ever!”
The Guilt Monster shrugged, and turned to leave. I gave him a small piece of cake to go.
("Meringue Or Vanilla?")