Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Happy Birthday Dear Mommy?

And now, a birthday story.

The cake was finished. Two layers. Lemon. Just the way I like it.

Lemon icing and in a fit of gastronomic inspiration, Mrs. Blackwell used lemon pudding instead of icing in between layers. I'd never tried this particular arrangement and was very much looking forward to indulging.

So, the cake sat on our kitchen counter, its icing warming, settling and cooling in an even layer across that wonderful citrusy surface.

The boy playing with a local band at the Farmer's Market.
The drummer gave him a stick so he could tap away while
they played. Pretty cool guy. Pretty perfect day — so far. 
Not far away, Mrs. Blackwell and I sat watching a hockey game, because when it's your birthday your spouse is obliged to tolerate anything.

We'd had an excellent day.

Our morning began with a tour of downtown Madison as we made our way through the biggest farmers market in North America. Later, I enjoyed a beer on the sunny shores of Lake Monona while Mrs. Blackwell and the boy enjoyed ice cream.

After that, we headed home where I did what any self-respecting dad loves to do best — grill. Mrs. Blackwell joined me outside as the boy took an afternoon nap. The sun shined. The meat cooked and the beer was cold.

With lunch done, we headed inside. Mrs. Blackwell joined me for a bit before heading to the kitchen to make the cake.

Later, the boy was up, the sun was setting and we were sitting. The boy meandered between the living room and the kitchen, making sure his evolving cast of plush toys was with him every step of the way.

Aside from the background hum of yet another hockey game and the occasional remark between Mrs. Blackwell and I, the house was quiet.

Then it happened.

The bloody footprint. 
The silence was broken as a plate landed on the floor. There's no other sound like it so we both knew immediately what it was.

Strangely, the sound of the impact was not accompanied by shattering.

We looked at each other. The boy was not in the room. I popped up and bolted toward the kitchen and what I found was absolutely perfect.

The cake was upside down on the floor. The plate hadn't shattered because it'd had two layers of cake, another layer of pudding and all kinds of icing in between to cushion its fall.

It was face down, its icing stuck to the floor, just a mangled mess and, in its own way, worthy of sympathy — a once beautiful testament to the unparalleled synergy of fruit and sugar, gone.

Nearby the boy stood in his white T-shirt and orange, motorcycle PJ bottoms, looking the picture of innocence. He was clean.

He was clean, except for his hands, upon which he was now wearing what I can only describe as cake gloves. On the front and back of both hands, from his wrist to the tip of each and every finger was cake and icing.

Somehow, some way, he'd gotten on his tippiest of tippy toes and managed to reach it. But, instead of grabbing the plate, he'd gone right for the cake. Thanks to the sticky, sugary icing, the plate was merely along for the ride.

But his ambition outstripped his capability. Once he slid it off the counter, he'd been unable to support its weight and down it all went.

My eyes captured this scene in a split second and I gasped loudly. The horror. The sheer and utter horror.

My reaction scared the boy, his eyes widened and he hopped back. I don't think he'd ever seen me recoil so violently. Then perspective kicked in.

His reaction to me let me know that my reaction needed to be cooler. I quickly shifted gears, crouched and let Master Blackwell know he was alright, everything was alright and he didn't need to be scared.

The horror. The horror. The horror
Well, that message didn't take long to be absorbed. In no time the boy was all smiles as Mrs. Blackwell and I went about the chore of cleaning him and the floor —
and trying to salvage the cake. (We were able to put together three superb servings so, it was enjoyed.)

As I peeled this mangled lemon monster off the hardwood, Master Blackwell stood inches away, his head bowed, staring at the mess before him.

Then, unprompted, he began singing.

"Haaaa-py birrrthday tooo you. Haaaa-py birrrthday tooo you."

It was subdued, a tad forlorn and really he could have just as easily been singing 'Danny Boy' while watching a casket get lowered. It was perfect.

He continued.

"Haaaa-py birrrthday deeewuh Mommmeee. Haaaa-py birrrthday tooo you."

Happy birthday dear mommy?

Like I said, it was perfect.

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