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Cake On Faces, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:50am

I’m off to a birthday party for two-year old twins.

I hope there will be balloons, and cake on faces, and lots of little people bumping around at knee-level. I hope parents sit on blankets on the lawn, chatting in relief and pride. I hope nobody cries too long or too hard. Although if a parent gets teary I’ll lend my shoulder happily.

All the birthday parties, guys, all the birthday parties. My mother and I are very different people who lived in different times and made different choices. But, when it came to birthdays, I took a page from Mom’s book.

A theme, or a plan, at least. A cake bought from an old-fashioned bakery in town, often decorated with caricatures. Mary Poppins’ face in chocolate piping. Oh they were ugly and wonderful. Slot cars, Damn Yankees, carnivals, karaoke. That last one, taken over by parents arriving for pickup, me sitting on the floor thinking, “Go home! Please, go home!”

They were bits of theater, the birthday parties, pulled out of imagination, tradition, and a furious love for our children who insist on growing up. Which is good, I know it’s good. I’d never wish to send them back to the days of wavy blue icing.

I am glad someone’s twins are still little. I’ll stop at the toy store for presents. I hope they have wrapping paper or gift bags.  In the old days, I kept a pair of scissors and some Scotch tape in the back of the car for precisely this moment. It was fun, if chaotic, so many swooping last minute errands. I suppose I played the hero a bit, but nobody seemed to mind.

Have a wonderful weekend, and happy birthday to anyone who is celebrating. Cakes are better these days. See, time does not have to pass in loss.

39 Responses

  1. Aww I loved this. ‘The days of wavy blue icing’ is a beautiful sentence. Also the reality of a kareoke party *wide eye emoji* and the scissors and tape in the car. Perfect.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Any wavy blue frosting at the party? In my opinion frosting is a food group. One of my many weaknesses. To quote something I saw on Pinterest: “My heart says wine and chocolate, my jeans say ‘For the love of God, woman, eat a salad'”.

    1. Ha! And no, the frosting was white on the grown up cake and yellow on the boys’ cakes. As per tradition, they each got their own little one. It’s pretty adorable.

  3. Today is our younger son’s birthday–but he is away and abroad on a business trip. Thirty three years have past by too quickly. I remember his birthday parties–which included those bakery cakes. The most memorable is Cookie Monster.

    I love thinking about wavy blue icing!

  4. Oh,yes,thanks for reminding! You write so poetic sometimes :-)
    I love themes even now,when there are no children birthdays any more,but they are very subtle and subconsious,I see the line only in the end of planning the dinner or lunch,when I am hostess
    And I fear karaoke,I am a terrible singer!

  5. Tearing up a bit here…my mom (she who raised a gazillion of us) used to joke that the theme of a birthday party could be to do a good old hot dogs, homemade cake, and ice cream Theme. She rarely did anything else, but we all have fond memories of finding the wax paper-wrapped coins in her birthday cakes. Very working-middle-class, I guess, and perhaps very regional as well. Anyone else have a similar tradition? Can you imagine the litigation possibilities these days?!
    Glad to hear the party was enjoyable. Must be big sighs of relief and accomplishment at getting through two years with twins.

    1. @Frances/Materfamilias, I think that coin thing might be British? And hot dogs, cake, ice cream is more than enough theme. In my case, my mother took her child-rearing as her outlet, I suppose, and what she might have done as a designer she did instead for costumes and parties.

  6. I used to love planning and executing my daughter’s birthday parties. So much fun. This post brings back so many memories, thank you.

  7. Traditional birthday cake from an old fashioned bakery is the best. I think I have finally convinced friends and family I really prefer a “birthday cake” birthday cake to anything from the gourmet shop. Twin birthdays are fun.

  8. I will never forget the moment three years ago when a mom bringing her son to my son’s birthday party took in our dining room decorated with crepe paper, happy birthday paper plates and mixed nuts at each place setting in muffin liners and said, “oh! An actual birthday party!”

    We’ve done the parties at popular party venues but I prefer the kind where a bunch of kids come to our house and run around and mess everything up. My kids (14 and almost 13) say these are their most memorable so far.

  9. Have you recovered from the birthday party yet, Lisa?

    Such beautiful memories in this post. I remember the birthday cakes of my childhood as you describe them.

    SSG xxx

  10. THEATRICAL is a good word to describe the BIRTHDAY parties I did for the SONS!They were a lot of FUN……..and I usually made the cake.Years later my oldest SON told me he ran into an elementary school chum who said, “YOUR MOM MADE THE BEST CAKES!”I loved that of course, but I do believe we should THANK BETTY CROCKER!!!

  11. My children loved planning birthday parties for others as much as having them for themselves. One year we baked a cake for their dad and it turned out to have a dip in the middle when we turned the top layer over. We decided to make the best of things, frosted it green and turned it into a golf course with a white frosted sand trap in the middle. Stuck a toothpick in it for a flag and called it a golf hole. My husband loves golf and wondered how we did that – little did he know it was by accident.

  12. Ah, cakes and birthday parties…It takes me back to one of my favorite cakes I ever baked for my kindergarten-aged daughter. It was chocolate, baked in a bundt pan and iced with chocolate frosting. But the piece de resistance was the mini-chocolate dinosaur crackers I had topping the cake and falling into the hole in the center. I named it “LaBrea Tarpit Cake.” No one got it but me…my best audience

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