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Dad’s story: A birthday promise kept

Submitted by on Sunday, 28 June 2009 No Comment

army_cakeBack in the spring, Big Guy was upset that Dad’s birthday fell during basic training and all he got was extra push-ups from his drill sergeant. Forty-two – one for each year. Then he had to do it again as the sergeant had the entire company help “celebrate.”

“It’s not fair!” Big Guy said. “How can he have a birthday if he doesn’t get to eat his cake.”

I said we’d have a birthday party for Dad when he comes home. It mollified Big Guy, and I figured he’d forget about it by June.

He didn’t.

Which is why last week I put in a rush order for camouflage napkins and plates and spent an hour in Target in an intense philosophical debate about which shirts Dad prefers. My balloon bill this week is starting to rival the stimulus package, and I pulled my second 2 a.m. session to finish a cake.

Big Guy also was up until 2 this time.

It wasn’t all a sugar rush, though admittedly I added to that by letting him sample the chocolate frosting around 10 when he promised he’d go to sleep if I just gave him “one tiny taste.”

It also was because we’d spent the day playing electronic “Where’s Waldo” with Dad as he texted pictures to update us on his progress.

The guys were glued to my phone, waiting for images. They saw an airport restaurant and a massaging chair at the first stop. Dad was ready to buy the chair its own seat on the plane. “Find it online,” he wrote. “Order two. This has repaired me.” They looked at jumbo jets and the cabin as he boarded the second plane.

That’s where the photo essay and the guys’ phone vigil ended and Big Guy started practicing hugs. “Daddy!” he’d coo, wrapping his arms around himself and smiling his most blissful smile.

“Can I help with the cake. Please?” he asked around 10:30.

Sometimes I do have the sense to get out from in front of the oncoming train. There was no way I was going to get this child to sleep without a battle. If I took the time to battle, I would have been up until dawn trying to finish.

“OK,” I said.

At first he was happy to sort the food coloring into store aisles and “sell” me whichever shade I wanted to use. Next, he organized my icing tips – at least that part was productive.

But then he couldn’t resist the giant cake I was working on.

“Can I help with the cake. Please?” he asked again.

Hours ago, I’d had him sort yellows and greens from a jar of candy stars I told him I was thinking about using on the cake. I was, of course, thinking about no such thing. They were the “wrong” yellow and green, and they would have messed up my design. I figured he’d stay busy for a while and forget all about it.

Silly, silly woman. If he remembered a birthday party promise from months ago, he wasn’t about to forget stars from mere hours earlier.

“I know! I can put on the stars!” he exclaimed, punctuating it with his stringless marionette dance he does when he’s really happy.

There comes that train again. Stars it is.

Yes, it goofed up my design. But Big Guy will look at the picture for years to come and remember that he had a hand in Dad’s birthday-Father’s Day-welcome home cake.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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