As is her custom, Lizzie-mouse asked for a pie for her birthday. Homemade. Preferably pumpkin. This was not an unusual request. Or even particularly taxing. The kids and I bake pretty frequently. We had a crust in the freezer and a can of pumpkin on the pantry shelf.
Except it has been a bit of a week.
We are moving house. Just across town, not cross-country like the last time around. But somehow the close proximity of our new home to our old flummoxed me utterly. When the gentlemen arrived with the second truck — after the first one rather cartoonishly rolled away — we had only packed three-and-a-half boxes. We’ve been busy summering — pool dates, beach trips, ice cream. I guess I figured that when the time came for the actual move, we would just “throw everything in laundry baskets.” Except I have only four laundry baskets. Five if you count the suitcase in the corner not yet unpacked from our trip to Cleveland five weeks ago. And as it turned out, I was not able to fit the entirety of our household possessions in these five containers. Thus, what followed was the most slip-shod, haphazard relocation project I have ever participated in. It topped the great dorm room debacle of ’94, when my roommate Meg was left to contend with the crusty macaroni and cheese dishes, the myriad holes in the walls, and the rotten pumpkin on the balcony. It topped the Ohio move when my friend Debbie, upon seeing the extent of my packing fiasco, voluntarily loaded her minivan with my trash bags and recycling. And it surpassed the chaotic 2002 move from Washington State when the cleaning crew we hired never showed up, and my best friend Jen, who just came to say good-bye and drop off some sandwiches, ended up washing our dog-slobber encrusted walls and windows with my husband’s old t-shirt and a bar of soap.
Last week’s move was like all of those moves combined. Except without the assistance of all of those friends. Without pals, packing paper, and you know, planning, we ended up rolling glassware in sweatpants and interspersing muffin tins with socks. I used the kids’ underwear to cushion coffee mugs. Trashcans were moved with the trash still inside. We had four days to finish this godforsaken move – eons in moving time. But the first day was the killer truck incident and the last day was Lizzie’s birthday, and all that happened in-between was a blur.
So long story short: I forgot to make the pie. I thawed the crust. Unearthed the pie pan in a laundry basket full of sweaters. But then never gave it another thought. It was as though I subconsciously believed those two preparatory actions would finish the job on their own.
At 9:30 on the night of her birthday, Lizzie said, “Mom, aren’t we going to sing to me?” Candles will not stand up in tomato soup (her birthday dinner), and they look sad in an empty pan, so I scurried around the kitchen looking for something else to light. That’s when I saw the banana. I crossed my fingers, stuck in the candles, and turned off the lights. We sang. Lizzie made her wish. And she blew out her banana.
For a few moments, I felt like a jerk. Who fails to make a kid her special dessert on her birthday? It’s like the only day a parent is required to produce a baked good. But when I looked at Lizzie’s face, as she laughed at her candles and peeled her banana ‘cake,’ I knew that this kid was okay. In fact, she was more than okay. She was delighted.
Kids are more resilient than we think. They fool us into believing they want comfort – the same chicken nuggets when we go to a restaurant, that particular stuffed animal when we tuck them good night. And to some extent, my kids are reassured by such routines. But they also love to be silly. And I think they love it even more when Mom and Dad are the source of the zaniness. When I brought out her flaming banana, I feared Lizzie might cry or pout because it was not, in fact, anything even resembling a pie. Instead, she smiled and laughed. She blew out her candles and even asked to make an extra wish.
If the wish was for pie, it worked. We ate one for breakfast the following morning.
And another one the next day just to be safe.
Happy Birthday, Lizzie. May the bananas always be with you.