I used to love my birthday. It always fell on a lovely day in early April. Arguably one of the most beautiful times of the year. If you happen to live in a state with trees, they are blossoming. Tulips are blooming. Baby birds are chirping.
My mother used to incorporate this Spring/Easter theme into my cakes, cupcakes and birthday parties every year. And the little pastel dresses she dressed me in were to die for.
But these days…I’m not a big fan of my birthday and all that it represents. Screw those baby bunnies and chicks. And I’ve long since retired the vestiges of unflattering pastels clinging to my wardrobe. Even more tragically, that glorious one pound bag of jelly beans I used to gorge on annually have now been linked to my migraines.
So these days I’m more like, ”Let’s don’t and say we did!”
But before we launch into a verse of “The Thrill is Gone,” I have to confess that my birthday is still a REALLY big deal. It’s HUGE here on a local level, unfortunately.
Despite the fact that I successfully googled how to remove my birthday information off of Social Media, in the hopes that no one would remember it, I have not managed to completely eradicate the impact of this date.
Because of the children I made and the children they made.
They all know exactly when my birthday is and they insist on making a thing of it.
In full disclosure, it’s my fault they know. Back in the day, when I ran a crazy, chaotic family with 5 children, I actually WANTED my family to know it was my birthday. I thought maybe, I could squeeze out one day a year that would be a “Day Off,” because, let’s face it, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, even Mother’s Day were all pretty “worky” for me.
This year, the day before my birthday, my “Birthday Eve” if you will, I was dropping off one tiny grandchild at the home of two other small grandchildren. In true grandmotherly fashion, I bribed the one I was dropping off to get into her car seat by giving her a ziplock bag full of jelly beans, which she was still clutching manically when we arrived at the other two children’s home.
Ordinarily this would have set off quite the kerfuffle. But, oddly enough, it did not. The two slightly older cousins eyed her treat longingly, but she quickly settled the matter at the top of her lungs by shouting, “MINE!”
Again, in true grandmotherly fashion, rather than scolding her, I scolded myself for this rookie error, realizing I should’ve brought two more bags! But in a rather astonishing turn of events, the other two children turned as docile as two little lambs and invited her to come survey their plethora of snacks.
It was as though they had stepped out of one of those “DICK AND JANE” storybooks from the 1950s, so full of cherubic, wholesome innocence they were. I glanced around for their dog, SPOT and their mother in an apron and heels. (Their mother was upstairs in black yoga pants grading law exams…)
They opened their refrigerator and proudly showed their cousin a cluster of grapes . Then they opened their freezer and lovingly displayed their stash of popsicles. And if that wasn’t enticing enough, they opened their pantry and showed off shelves brimming full of fruit snacks, veggie straws and kiddie protein bars.
I just stood there basking in grandmotherly affection. It was one of those magically sweet, nostalgic moments between the cousins and I beamed in pride over my firstborn grand-progeny, ages 4 and 2, and the perfect example they were setting for their little cousin. Grandma Laylay really had a handle on her legacy.
A legacy of love.
Nonetheless, in the interest of keeping things lively, I spotted a cake mix and frosting on the shelf, and gently teased…
“It’s someone’s birthday tomorrow! Are y’all baking a cake?”
And that’s when all Hell broke loose.
My 2-year-old granddaughter started thrashing about clamoring for the box, which was on a high shelf, screaming that it was my birthday and they needed to make the cake. Like all 2-year-olds, immediate gratification is her calling card. Most notably when sugar is involved.
My 4-year-old grandson, a textbook firstborn, rule-follower, who was born with an internal clock and calendar, exasperatedly admonished her, “Tomorrow is LayLay’s birthday! Tomorrow! We are making the cake tomorrow!”
The frosting was one of those cans that has the sprinkles displayed across the top of the lid, causing the 2-year-old’s eyes to roll back into her head as she practically convulsed in seizures…
“Sprinkles Grandma Laylay! SPRINKLES! SPRINKLES! SPRINKLES!”
At which point her brother raced to explain at the top of his lungs (in an effort to be heard over his sister) that it was a RAINBOW FLAVORED CAKE!!! It’s hard to describe what happened next. Most mothers will understand when I say that the situation both escalated and spiraled simultaneously. At one point both siblings were reduced to tears and pummeling one another for reasons neither was equipped to articulate.
Suffice it to say, there was much trembling, flailing-about and an over-abundance of excitement, I’m pretty sure they were both speaking in tongues at one point.
It sounded like it anyway.
Within seconds, their mother came downstairs and sorted everything out. She yanked the cake mix and frosting away from me and put it on an even higher shelf. One I couldn’t reach. She’s taller than me.
Then she shook her head and rolled her eyes at my uncanny ability to consistently instigate a ruckus in her home, even though I was only in charge for a few minutes. Plucking her tiny niece from my arms, she shooed me out the door and on my way to do whatever it is that mutinous, trouble-making grandmothers do on the Eve of their Birth.
I had something to do all right. I drove off and immediately began planning the menu for next weekend. Easter Weekend. I’m definitely thinking cake, cupcakes and jelly beans. Served alongside a Cabernet that pairs nicely with sugar, migraines and my legacy of love.