It was a busy weekend, to say the least. The Whiskey Sisters sang at the Highland Grill on Friday night, and stayed late to enjoy the company and the warmth of the big woodfires they keep going outside – not to mention the constant pours of good wine, as well as the unbelievable crab cakes and scallops. I got a couple of bites of the chocolate mint torte, too, but at that point it was an embarrassment of riches. I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in – as I usually am in a new crowd, but I had a lot of fun, made some new friends, and met a lovely Pinot Noir called Leaping Lizard. If you have a predisposition for red wine that you can indulge, I highly recommend it.
Saturday was spent recovering from Friday. By the time evening rolled around, I had managed to put together the requisite ooey-gooey dessert for Buffy’s birthday, and drove out with Duckie to join the festivities for a short while. Good to see everyone, and especially good to see my friend M’s baby, now five months old, smiling and sticking out her little pink tongue. Oh, babies. Yeah, I’ve got the baby fever bad.
The next morning I picked up Brian in Laurel Park and we hit the Place That Shall Not Be Named (Wal-Mart, in other words.) We had almost finished shopping when it struck me that I had forgotten the cake (baking was not an option given the time constraints of the week before.) So we headed down to the bakery. I gave Duckie a choice between This One or That One, praying she wouldn’t choose That One – a quarter-sheet cake decorated with lurid pink icing roughly the color of … well, I’m having a hard time describing the color. Suffice to say it would work for face painting – and did, not too long after that. But, since she picked it out, I could hardly say no. I’d given her the choice, after all. (I’ll be baking her birthday cakes from now on – or at least going by myself to pick the next one. Ugh.)
T & P called us shortly thereafter to let us know that they were on their way. “OK, the bathroom is now a priority,” I said to Brian. So while I set up lunch for Duckie and tried to make some preliminary sense of the shopping madness, he cleaned the bathroom, then pretty much took over the rest of the preparations. Because as soon as T & P showed up with their four-month old baby, I was about useless.
Saying she’s a sweet child doesn’t do her justice. She’s also alert, intelligent, curious, amazingly relaxed, and very interested in whatever Duckie was doing. They spent some time on the floor together sharing toys, we took dozens of pictures (I think P took about 200 shots throughout the day with their digital-camera-on-steroids) and spent a lot of time saying “Awwwww, how cute!” Disgusting, really.
Brian put together the veggie tray. He patted out the hamburgers (which were, by all accounts, fantastic.) He carted stuff down to the pavilion behind the house where the party would be. He reminded me that all the decorations were down there already, and it was probably time to set up. He helped blow up balloons, and so did several other people. It was a good thing we had a lot of them, because those damned things exploded at the least provocation.
T came down and helped me make sense of the streamers. I think I will always be decorationally-challenged, so I was sincerely grateful for the help, as well as for the company. Just as motherhood sits beautifully on P’s shoulders, fatherhood seems to suit T just as well, and it was lovely to see him kick back on the recliner later with baby A sleeping on his chest. I am so happy to see them blessed with the experience of parenthood.
(As background, I should say that T & I dated in college. He saw me through a pretty tough time back then, and later moved from Florida up to the mountains. We shared an apartment then, so when he met P and they fell madly in love, I got to watch them smooch and stuff all over the house. Ick. Anyway, it seems we’ve all grown up a lot since then in one way or another – it helps that we’re not sharing an apartment anymore, too ;)
Buffy and her eldest daughter showed up next. They brought ice cream for the awful pink cake, and brauts from the night before that I’d left over at their house uncooked.
Er… I think Sam was next, maybe? I kind of lost track at this point. She brought her face paints and we all got in line to get gussied up. (And let me clarify - when Sam, a professional artist, gussies you up, you are Beyond Gussied.) The boys weren't interested, but I think all the ladies but one (babies excepted) indulged in some temporary decoration of one kind or another. It was very festive, and was a special touch to a great day.
RB came with her gorgeous son J –
OK, you see where this is going, right? Beautiful kids playing together in the back yard, great food from the hands of my husband, balloons popping every few minutes, lovely intelligent friends around sharing stories about kids, babies, and marriage, wonderful gifts for my daughter… I don’t think it could have been any better, even if I had had time to cook.*
I know it sounds slightly delusional – come on, Andi, not all your friends can be that awesome, can they? Not all of their kids can be so cool, right?
Well, actually, they are. Coming from a small immediate family, separated by geography from extended blood kin, I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in a group of friends who are as precious to me as any of my blood relations. I call all their kids nieces and nephews, and they’re all Duckie’s cousins. All the women are her aunties, and all the men are her uncles, no doubt about it.
And yesterday we had most of that adopted family around us. They wouldn’t have minded waiting to eat – but Brian made sure the hot dogs and hamburgers came off the grill promptly. They didn’t mind that you had to watch where you stepped, lest you tread on a toddler or a dog or cat. They didn’t mind the mounds of quickie junk food – we did have a veggie tray after all, so I suppose it could have been worse. They didn’t mind that the house wasn’t perfectly clean, and that the picnic table could have used an extra sweep, or that my daughter sometimes was naughty and grabbed their food like she hadn’t eaten in days. (Although that was nothing compared to her obsession with the ice in the cooler – teething kids are so weird sometimes.)
There was a conversation going on yesterday I found hilarious – we were talking about this odd assortment of relationships, acquaintances and friendships, and someone said, “It’s not really a circle, is it? It’s more like –“
“A kudzu patch,” Brian offered. Captures the shape of it a lot better than a circle does, I think. It illustrates the way the network grows and shrinks sometimes, but always seems to reconnect in ways we don’t anticipate. Like the babies, for instance. I had hoped I would get them both out to the house at the same time, as both P and M delivered their daughters within weeks of each other. Once they were there, I realized that they had never actually met – these gorgeous, intelligent women that had been in my life for years hadn’t ever had the chance to connect. So their babies got to meet each other, too, and if you can think of anything cuter than two drooling baby girls smiling and cooing and reaching for each other at first sight… well, it was just breathtaking. So, just like that, another brief connection made.
Duckie was very excited when the cake came out. Distracted as I was by prying the ice cream open, I didn’t realize how excited she was until a roar of laughter came from the peanut gallery behind me. I looked down to see her grabbing dollops of pink icing and using liberal amounts of it to decorate her face. Oh, boy.
I tried half-heartedly to put a stop to it, but then Sam gave her a paintbrush while we were singing “Happy Birthday” and Duckie promptly dipped it in the cake icing and used it for further face-painting endeavors. Sam laughed so hard she accidentally blew out the candle.
The cake itself was a yummy marble, which was unfortunately overwhelmed by the foulness of the icing. Live and learn, I guess. Those intrepid souls who actually ate the cake ended up with bright pink teeth and tongues, which made for some amusing photographs, I hope.
People drifted away by ones and twos after that. Brian went on a whirlwind of cleaning up (aided and abetted by some of the guests, no doubt) and by the time Duckie was out of her bath and into pajamas, he’d done it all. I was absolutely stunned, and he was absolutely exhausted. God, I love that man.
We said good-bye to T, P & A, and promised to set up a date soon to go to the zoo in their town. As much as Duckie watches the Animal Planet, she ought to love it. They went home, and we all went to bed. A simple day, uneventful, marked by a shared appreciation of hamburgers, hot dogs, cheese doodles, growing children, and each other. Moments of transcendent beauty in the interactions of my friends. And strangely – thanks to my husband – no great stress that I can remember.
So today, I’m taking yet another break from current events. Yesterday’s golden moments are too special to be subsumed so quickly by the flow of time. I’d like to savor them for a little while, if you don’t mind.
*Correction: it would have been better if Dad & Judy had been able to make it - but he's still recovering from surgery and a four-hour car ride is not an option at the moment.