When my daughter was ten years old, we threw her an American Idol themed birthday party- replete with karaoke machine and a birthday cake with Carrie Underwood’s likeness adorning the pinkalicious confection. My ex wife’s clan showed up early and helped supply the sheen to the pretty and pink frills. These people are the anti-thesis of my family in that they’re prompt and drink moderately. My family came bearing gifts, liquor and a colorful arrangement of language, to which my ex supplied censor so’s the other kids wouldn’t have to get their ears cleaned out with bleach.
The scheduled events included backyard games and karaoke that would have made the late Nat King Cole dig even deeper. Afterwards, the appearance of the cake, which I ran inside to check on before partaking of the festivities.
I walked into the kitchen to a massacre, following the entrails of cake and butter cream splatter to the dining room . . . and my boxer. I picked up what was left of the cake and held it in my arms like a dying seal as Molly cleaned the floor.
“Dude . . . that the cake?” Asked my friend Rodney, his new girlfriend in one hand and a Heineken in the other.
“Was . . was . . . ”
“This is Terri . . . Terri, this is my main man . . .” It seemed odd, the introductions. Odder still, the fact that I shook her hand with butter cream icing slathered all over it.
After disposing of the mutilated cake, we ran to the supermarket for “a few last minute things”- like chips, soda . . a birthday cake. On the ride, Rodney suggested we pick up more beer. I countered with a four lettered response since my ratio of alcohol to cake was approximately 98 to 2. Those numbers work for a poker game, not so much for a little girl’s birthday party.
I settled on an ice cream cake with pink border while Terri scored a couple tubes of icing and met me in the frozen foods section to apply the wishes. She was a dental hygienist with a steady hand. It would suffice. She used a center aisle table to perform the impromptu surgery- My father of the year accreditation in jeopardy and Rodney nowhere to be found.
Ringtone . . . screen check . . . my ex.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Where’s the cake?”
“Yeah, about that . . .”
On cue, Rodney strolled up the aisle holding a bottle of Margarita mix. We now qualified as a Teamsters meeting.
“Where’s . . the cake?” My ex repeated.
“It’s gone, It’s gone . . .” As I’m explaining the situation to her, I turn to find Terri’s impressive handiwork- Happy Birthday Annie. Almost perfect . . . almost.
“Who’s Annie?” Rodney asked.
There I was, praying for spontaneous combustion when Terri suggested we try the bakery. Rodney and I looked at each other as if fire had just been invented. She grabbed the cake and we followed like puppies. It wasn’t the marble cake with butter cream icing, but it worked. There are only two places where ice cream trumps Carrie Underwood-Tony Romo’s house and a ten year old’s birthday party.
In the end, the cake was a hit, Molly didn’t get sick and my ex and I remained happily divorced. Forget perfect, it was us– the us we forged into being after ditching the parenting handbook and all of its rules. It’s not how the Brady Bunch would’ve handled their business, but they had astroturf for a yard, so what did they know?