Monday, September 30, 2013

The Hostage

Bootsie didn't quite understand why we were having cake and ice cream if it wasn't really her birthday. I tried to explain we were having this early party at Googie's house because we wouldn't be able to be with her on her actual birthday six days away.

So when Bootsie and her three siblings ended up spending the night with Pa-pa and me during the weekend before Oct. 4, it just made sense to stage our own celebration.  To properly observe this momentous third birthday, we invited her great-grandma and her cousin Beenie's family out for a Saturday pizza lunch topped off with the "white cake with chocolate icing" that Bootsie herself ordered last week on Skype.

Such events involving five children age six and under are always lively, to say the least, and this one was no exception.  It is never unusual when the transition between the lunch part and the dessert part goes less than smoothly.

On this particular day the transition seemed to take an especially long time.  Boots sat patiently, looking at her cake with its sprinkling of nonpareils in fall colors and its recycled "3" candle propped in the middle.  I was running around, lighter in my hand, for what must have seemed to her like forever.

Every time I got ready to pull the trigger, it seemed like something else demanded my attention:  hands needed wiping here, a face needed wiping there, a stray pepperoni hit the floor, the ice cream needed to be set out.  Where was the dipper?  Were we out of napkins?  Was that a whiff of dirty diaper?

Anyway at one unforgettable point in the chaos, Bootsie herself, usually a pretty quiet little girl, levered her voice above the hubbub to proclaim, "LET THE PARTY BE RELEASED!"

Released?  Really?  We all looked at her in a kind of stunned silence.   I froze in place, my mind racing to analyze that remarkable choice of word by a not-quite-yet-three-year-old.

Amid the laughter that followed, the cake was cut, the candle lit, the ice cream dipped, and the traditional "Happy Birthday" song chorused--all with an efficiency uncharacteristic of our parties. Our captain had spoken, and we took our marching orders seriously.

Happy Birthday next weekend, little Bootsie.  Have a great time at the party you will have at your house on your real birthday.  Keep everyone in line and, whatever you do, don't let anyone else make the mistake of taking a perfectly innocent party hostage.

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