So it should come as no surprise that we ordered an ice-cream cake for my little sister Oakley’s sixth birthday.Oakley’s birthday was on a Wednesday that year, so her party with her friends was going to be the Saturday after. My mom is a big believer in celebrating on the actual day, so she made a point of making dinner reservations at our favorite restaurant for the five of us. She had my step-dad meet us at there so that he could go to Baskin-Robbins to pick up the cake first without Oakley seeing it.
The plan worked perfectly. He arrived at the restaurant before us and had already spoken to Phyllis, the manager, about the cake. He winked at my mom and whispered, “They’ll take care of everything.”By “everything,” I assumed he meant that Phyllis would put candles on the cake and walk out of the kitchen at the appropriate time. By “everything,” my mom assumed that no one would ruin the surprise for Oakley. By “everything,” Phyllis assumed that is was a regular cake (albeit it a very cold one), so she stuck it on a side counter in an out of the way spot in the kitchen.
I shouldn’t say, “out of the way spot.” I should say, “directly under the heat lamp.”We ate our dinner, blissfully unaware of the melty tragedy taking place behind the swinging kitchen door.
When we finished our dinner, Phyllis came over to our table and sweetly asked if we would like dessert. My mom shook her head no, then said dramatically, “No, sorry, we are all much too full for dessert!”Just then, a troop of waiters, waitresses, cooks, and underage dishwashers all came out of the kitchen cheering and singing “Happy Birthday” to my sister. She loved being in the spotlight, and she clasped her little hands together in glee and anticipation. The server gently set the cake down in front of Oakley.
It was cake soup.I’m not sure if it was the excitement of the day or the fact that 20 people were hovering around us, but Oakley seemed to not notice that her cake was no longer a solid, but a liquid. She blew out her crooked candles (reminiscent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa), and everyone clapped. I felt like we were on stage in a strange play where one of the props malfunctions and the cast ignores it and goes on.
My mother, however, could not ignore it. While my step-dad cut into the cake with his spoon and my toddler brother reached for a straw, my mother left the table to speak to Phyllis. “What happened?” I could hear her imploring.In the end, there of course was nothing we could do except eat the hot cake with sticky creamy sugar fossilized around it. My brother licked his plate clean.
On the drive home while my brother slept and Oakley chattered on and on about her Barbie wish-list for her party on Saturday, my parents bickered quietly in the front seat. My mom blamed my step-dad for not explaining to Phyllis that the pink box with brown dots and the words “Baskin Robbins Ice-Cream” emblazoned on the top actually housed a frozen confection. “I didn’t think to tell her, because I thought she would just know!” he hissed through clenched teeth.We arrived home and changed into our pajamas, Oakley still oblivious to the cake drama that swirled around her. My mom came into our room to say goodnight, and Oakley asked:
“Mommy, for Saturday’s party, can we have more of that ice-cream soup?”