Cupcakes, lemonade, paper and magic


Charles Papert photo

Grace, my newly minted 4-year-old, is coming off a 36-hour high-rev cycle of excitement about her birthday, breaking into her own little “it’s my birthday, birthday, birthday” tune once every 20 minutes or so. A magician and his rabbit show up in the park for her. She is surrounded by grown ups and kids who adore her.

At the end, 10 cupcakes, some smushed, some salvageable. Those go into the freezer, for what, I’m not sure, but they’re too pretty to trash. A bag full of bags, neatly folded, ready for future gifting. Enough paper for a small indy weekly, and even though it’s in my nature to pick the scraps and revive them, it goes into the recycling. All of it. Too tired. But so happy that it went well, even with divorced parent awkwardness, spilled lemonade, renegade balloons. I realize I got not only a kid when I became a mom, but I got all the other kids we know, and their darling parents, who are there cheering her on: I hit the community lotto.

And the girl, after a thorough scrubbing in the bath to rid the layers of sunscreen and pizza and sweat and dirt, falls asleep quickly after two books about birthdays and one about the friendly snowman named Olaf, who finds joy in every situation. This night, there are no extra potty trips, no pleas for the light on, no, “mama, I have to tell you something … ” Just a happy, deep, delicious sleep.

Of course, this day belongs to her. But there are others who are, unsimply, with us today and every day. I think about the man and woman who brought her into this world; from every angle I see his eyes, her legs, their hair. Grace doesn’t like to talk about adoption much. But today, I make sure she remembers the people who made us a family.

And then I add a little hot to her leftover bath and slip my sunburned shoulders underneath the water. We’re in a drought, you know.



Vanessa McGradyCupcakes, lemonade, paper and magic

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