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There Will Be Blood…And Cake

Kizz took this photo at the birthday boy’s party.

Ronan’s first birthday party was a huge success even though he accidentally attempted to bite his own tongue off. Thankfully that accident only resulted in a little bit of blood on Dad.

It’s incredible that a year has gone by since Ronan entered our lives. It seems like 12 minutes, not 12 months. I blinked and here we all are, one year later and one year older.

Ronan seemed to have no inkling, really, that the day was about him. He seemed to just go about his business, as he always does, smiling and flirting with all the party guests. Our invited list was made quite late, as we vacillated about having an open party. There’s something to be said for celebrating the last birthday Ronan will not be able to talk about with just the family. But finally, too late really, we invited a bunch of friends. Only half of the guest list lacked a better Saturday plan than watching Ronan get hyped up on sugar.

The centerpieces of the party were our dilapidated yet tasty homemade cakes. If I had known how complicated the cake making was going to become, I would have opted for a single cake. Thankfully I only had to frost.

We started out with a simple plan, the traditional box mix, only organic. Then we added pudding to the list of ingredients. Then we abandoned that plan for Aunt Mildred’s cryptic recipe books.

Aunt Mildred is Terry’s great aunt, and the keeper of several recipe books that apparently were written in longhand (or military code). Recipes are extremely important in Terry’s side of the family, to the point that Ronan’s Grandpa will never be forgiven for losing a book of Great-Grandma’s recipes, and is roundly verbally teased whenever anything vaguely resembling a recipe is made. No amount of protestation or apology will ever get him off the hook. Terry rescued Aunt Mildred’s cake recipes when her family cleaned out her house to get ready to sell it.

Terry selected a white cake with marshmallow frosting and a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge frosting from Aunt Mildred’s recipe book. Those would be daunting enough to make from scratch with Food Network directions. But Aunt Mildred’s recipes require something more in the way of faith. Aunt Mildred’s handwriting looks very much like Colonial Era handwriting. I look at the ledger book (don’t you write your recipes in a ledger?) and immediately wax nostalgic for George Washington, because he could probably read the recipes to us.

On top of that, Aunt Mildred was such a good cook that she left out minor details such as cooking times, oven temperature or a precise definition of just what “a good long time” or “softball” meant for successive generations of cooks. So part of the fun of the recipe is that you get to make up part of it yourself. Terry would collaborate via phone with her mother about what the recipe said and what it all meant. Sometimes her Mom would call back with a passage from another of Aunt Mildred’s cookbooks that illuminated a critical part of the recipe. We weren’t making cakes as much as we were deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My job was to frost the finished cakes. Which was all well and dandy at 11 AM, when I had energy, Terry didn’t have cake flour on her elbows and Ronan was still interested in what we were doing. However, having two cakes doubled all the preparation time, so by 11 PM, I didn’t feel as excited about cake decoration and just wanted to get them done.

Terry had expertly baked the cakes, and they smelled delicious and the hot steamy cake residue left in the pan tasted great as well. However, the flaw in our plan was that Aunt Mildred’s cakes were not exactly structurally sound. The white cake with the marshmallow frosting (which was supposed to be a meringue frosting) started to shift after the frosting was applied. The three layers slid off each other, creating a cake more reminiscent of a Frank Gehry building than a birthday cake. Attempting to level out the high peaks of the chocolate cake, the top layer broke apart while waiting for the bottom layer to be frosted. The neat, almost geometrical quarters had to be put on one at a time. While they stayed put there was a large crack in the cake that could not be filled with frosting. To prevent additional cake-quakes, we fastened the layers to each other with chopsticks. No really. Chopsticks.

Thankfully they tasted great. Since it took poor Terry all day and most of the evening to bake the cakes and make the frosting from scratch, we had not considered two critical questions. One, where could we store the cakes? And two, where could we store the cakes that would not be accessible by the new colony of ants living in the floorboards? Finally, through careful balancing of the cake plates on each other and sliding the plate edge into the shelf notch in the refrigerator, I got them out of the ants’ reach.

The day of the party, our friend Kizz showed up a wee bit early and played with Ronan while we set up for the party. For some reason, Kizz was determined not to shed Ronan’s blood in an accident. I wasn’t cognizant of how the subject came up. Perhaps Ronan headed for the corner of the coffee table or picked up some deadly instrument. Whatever the reason, Kizz was determined that no blood be spilled at the party.

The rest of the guests arrived and we laughed and talked and sang happy birthday, which delighted and confused Ronan, who sometimes seems to take group singing as a direct threat to his well being. The homemade cake and ice cream (store-bought, thankfully) was eaten and pronounced ugly but delicious, and soon people began to head out the door, including Kizz, who took her magic bloodletting-preventing powers with her.

Ronan’s first cake and ice cream was gratefully received, but only as a toy. He played with the cake and ice cream for a while, but didn’t seem too interested in eating it. He did manage to get it all over his face.

Ronan travels, at the time of this writing, with his tongue out of his mouth at times. As he is on the verge of walking, he is constantly falling over at a much higher rate than previously in his life. Shortly after Kizz left, Ronan took a header that, through a series of incredible coincidences, took his chin in contact with the futon frame, and his teeth in contact with his mouth. The Aristocrats!

A small, but noticeable, amount of blood poured forth as he buried his head in my chest and cried. An audible gasp erupted as the remaining guests realized that the reason for the party was now spitting a quantity of blood onto his father’s chest.

Over a year ago, a friend gave us a gift of a doll that had an ice center. This poor doll has been in the freezer for a whole year, waiting for the day when it would be called to chill a stricken child. Locked in that dark, cold place, rudely shuffled around and battered by too many frozen pizzas and leftover bagels, it had suffered too many indignities. Now, on the day of Ronan’s birthday, we called forth this long-suffering doll from the bowels of our tiny freezer, to soothe Ronan’s broken tongue.

Ronan took one look at it, stopped crying, and dumped it on the floor after a few minutes. I doubt he ever used the ice core of the doll on his tongue.

Now the doll is back in the freezer, awaiting the next time it is called to cool a skinned knee. Sometime in 2009 by the current use schedule.

All was well, however. With the guests full of cake and ice cream, they stumbled home quite early for some food that was actually nutritious.

Some of my favorite moments of that day will always be the family outing to the playground after the party. Ronan discovered that he loves the slide – but only if Dad is there to send him off and Mom is waiting to catch him. Subsequent trips to the playground with only parent did not elicit the same level of excitement. We must of sent our giggling child down the slide dozens of times. Something that the family could do together. So we got our family time and our party with friends both on the same day.

Despite the blood, it was a wonderful day.

One year later, Terry and I are better parents. A year from now we will be even better parents. This past year we learned to be parents together. Terry and I are closer than ever before, and our love for Ronan has grown more ornate and broad the more we get to know him. I cherish our time together. We are blessed by our family, and by so many friends who came to celebrate his birthday.

Here’s to the next seventeen years. May they pass by slowly. Even though I know they won’t.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 13, 2008 12:49 AM.

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