I have a particular affection for the month of April. This is the time that several of my favorite life forms spring up to stun me with their perfection. Try improving on the French Lilac, or the strawberry. In truth, though lilacs are boisterously in bloom, the local berries will not actually appear until May. But in the Eden to the south of me, California, these smaller organic varieties are ripening and making me wish I were a slug (yes, I said it) so I could munch on these all day long, from a recumpent posture, and call it life.
Ten Aprils ago, the perfect wee girl showed up in my life and has provided me with (nearly) nonstop joy ever since. She was seventeen and a half inches long (but packing a wallop, as my sister said). I was so crazy about her; I felt like that couple in The Notebook: insensible and half-mad with love. My husband referred to her as Strawberry Shortcake, and that was her birthday cake for several years to come.
But I cannot write about strawberry shortcake, or this year’s buckeye bundt birthday cake, right now. I am a bit pressed at the moment, since I have a friend, Jana, and her three year old daughter Edith, in town from Iowa. They never stop eating, God bless them. When I picked them up from the airport, I warned Jana I had not made any menu plans beyond tearing a coupon for Papa Murphy’s out of the paper. But I have spent every second since then in the kitchen.
So my wee girl passed her golden birthday last weekend, complete with her first slumber party. After a couple hours of cake and ginger ale fueled girl antics, I was chuckling at my initial resistance to the screening of a movie at the party. What did I think the girls should do? Sit in a circle and practice their needlework? They ended up watching an episode of Just Add Magic. This series features child actors with an appalling lack of talent. But I approve of it, because it also showcases a cookbook with spell-casting recipes (Mind Peering Peppermints anyone? How about some Shut-em-up Shortcakes?).
After the show, they burrowed into a pile of bedding in the living room. Every time I went downstairs to get something, my daughter would say, “Are we being too loud?” In truth, any sound after 9 pm, save that of quietly turning pages, is deafening to me. But I said no, out of gratitude that I live with a considerate child.
Later, when I happened by the nest of would-be slumberers, I heard her asking everyone to share their most embarrassing dreams. This round of disclosure was followed by a session of relating times they got in trouble at school unjustly (another conversation prompt from my offspring). It was as if she’d read a chapter of a manners book on how to keep slumber party chatter from flagging (“What’s your favorite nail polish color?” “Do you think the school levy will pass?”). A good hostess knows there is more to a successful fete than moist cake, though not much more.
I asked her the next day if one of the American Girl publications had addressed these party concerns. Yes, in fact, in The Big Book of Help, hostesses are advised to stay clear of the treacherous game of truth or dare, and offered other useful tips for creating a party atmosphere that won’t leave everyone weeping, nursing a sprain, or on restriction.
We called it a success, and I felt I passed another milestone in my life as a parent. It’s all bittersweet. I am gratified beyond measure to see my children grow up kind, funny, and interesting; I just don’t understand why they are…growing up. April has proved to be the cruelest month, as my undergraduate studies in English Literature taught me. But it’s been a lavish one as well, bestowing on me one of the great and golden loves of my life.