Monday, May 10, 2010

Let them make cake

Two days before Q's party, a classmate of hers asked how many birthdays Q has. I know the feeling: First it was her birthday proper, with gifts wrapped in Amazon boxes and (from us anyway) in the New York Times.* Then my wife made blue-frosted cupcakes for Q's Pre-K class, enjoyed by all except for that inevitable classmate with the egg allergy.

And then there was Q's actual party. My wife has earned a solid reputation in the neighborhood for executing great parties, and this one wasn't unusual. What was unusual, though, is that unlike past years, we decided to have the thing in our (little) house instead of in our apartment building's playroom. This meant having fewer kids than usual, but some sacrifices just had to be made.**

A smaller guest list made more intensive activities possible. Q liked the idea of a cooking party, and so did we. Each guest was greeted with a paper chef's hat (individually sized and stapled) and an apron to decorate. Instead of ordering pizza, we gave them their own ball of dough to stretch and roll and sauce. While their early dinners browned in the oven, the kids made animal cupcakes to accompany the barn cake my wife had made. The results were, as you can see, lovely.

Cupcakes done and corralled, everyone ate the pizza they made. Interestingly, almost everyone had leftovers—and everyone wanted to take them home. (As far as we can remember, that's a first for any party.) Guests also took away their cupcake in a special box, their hat and apron, and a cake and cookie recipe book. Little was left.

Q smiled the whole time.

Until that night. After opening all the wonderful presents from those who came to celebrate with her, she slowly slid into tears. Q almost never cries about anything. My wife and I asked her why she was sad. She said she didn’t know, and I believed her (and I don’t always believe her). The day had meant a lot to her, but, unlike her brother, she struggles with attention. It’s as if she can feel the weight of all those thoughts of her, and they finally got too heavy. Or at least I think that's what it was; it's hard to say.

I suppose it's now an old story—at least 300 years older than the philosophers who first told it (and as new as the newest science)—that we arrive blank and are written on by the world until we leave. This picture suggests that the longer we go, the more we're taught, the more we understand. But I think it's something like a half-truth. Childhood has all sorts of knowingness—of cruelties in particular—and adults often find themselves bothered and saved by mysteries. No matter how old one gets, there are always puzzles, and the pieces keep getting smaller. I hope that I can help her appreciate not understanding, and that she can do the same for me.

Happy birthday, Q. We love you.

*Never too early to introduce a little liberal bias, right?

1 comment:

teahouse said...

Sounds like it was a lovely party. The colors from your photos are always so vivid. Is it that your camera has a unique ability to capture their essence?