Marilyn’s post on wistful mothering memories yesterday reminded me of this story. It’s a story of perspective, childhood wonder, and the worthlessness of so much of my stress.
The year was 2003. Adelaide was turning four. These were the years when their mother was energetic and creative. I had decided on an elaborate cake design. Four little princess dolls would be stuck into four little upside down cupcakes which would serve as their skirts. The princesses would all be dancing on a 9 by 13 dance floor of frosting and flowers.
But it was a disaster from the start.
I made all the cakes and was just making the frosting when I realized I didn’t have enough powdered sugar. Lowell ran out to the market to hunt some down. Not twenty minutes after he returned and the icing was mixed up and the “dance floor” was coloured and the construction of the cake had begun in earnest, our bell rang. Lowell went to answer it.
We had guests.
I set the cake and the sugar and the icing and the dolls to the side and I made chai. We had a lovely visit with our friends on the roof of our house. The Ganges river flowed quietly below, the winter sunshine danced on her surface.
After the guests left and the tea things had been brought down from the roof, I once again turned my attention to the cake. While we had been peacefully enjoying friends and winter warmth an entire city of ants had discovered the cake. They too had enjoyed their friends and the warmth of fresh cake and the sweetness of gooey goodness. It was ant paradise! I was horrified. Tears welled up in my eyes. The party was inching closer by the minute and I was now delayed by families and families of ants in my cake.
Rama, my dear friend, and our house-helper, came to the rescue. Don’t cry Didi! Put the cake in the sun. The ants will leave.
So I did. I carefully placed the princesses skirts and gowns, the dance floor, the frosting–all of it—on to a table in the courtyard, in the sun. And I went inside to finish other preparations for the party.
Returning a few minutes later to see if Rama’s theory was working, I started to shriek! A sweet family of sparrows had planned their reunion around a princess theme! There they sat pecking at the dance floor, sampling the ball gowns, chirping with serendipitous delight! Ahh…! the glories of a warm winter afternoon with friends and cake.
By now I was furious and fuming and frantic. Rama came and sat by the cake, a real life scare-sparrow with a swirling tea towel she stood guard. The ants went marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah. And the birdies in the treetops sang their songs.
All creatures great and small bemoaning the interruptions to their various tea parties.
When Rama sounded the all clear I went to work like a mad woman. I frosted frostily. My joy was gone but there was a party to be planned. The princesses kept sliding backwards, off the now warm and melting dance floor! I broke off long pieces of raw spaghetti noodles and used them to pin the protesting princesses in place. When it was all assembled, I hurriedly wrote, “Happy Birthday Adelaide” on the front.
Just as I placed down my knife the children filed in. They were fresh from their baths. Daddy had scrubbed them and clothed them in party attire. Connor, then 6, was the first to see the cake. His face burst into a sunny smile and he sincerely iced my heart with his generous response, “Oh girls…isn’t this the most amazing cake you’ve ever seen!? It’s beautiful mummy. It’s the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen!” He was so genuine. His words were so heartfelt. Adelaide pushed over a stool, climbed on , stood on tippy toes to see her cake. Her heart was in her eyes. She was thrilled. Lowell held baby Bronwynn up to see it too.
The three of them were in awe.
I cried. It really was a horrible looking mess of a cake. And it has been a horrendous day full of bugs and bitterness, birds and bite and yet to see their faces was worth it. The sugar rush of sweetness had little to do with the cake itself and everything to do with my sweet babies and their kind blindness and sweet gratitude and true joy.
I love that memory. It speaks to me of so many things…but I’ll always remember the innocence and grace that allowed my children to see that cake from another perspective, and in so doing, they found delight!