When my daughter Poppy and I arrived late to a birthday party at our local children’s museum, I was pretty amazed at what I surveyed: A room void of children and a table crowded with deviled eggs, pigs in a blanket, chocolate-covered strawberries and a floral center piece straight out of J Lo’s wedding guide. On the sideboard under a dormant train track sat two more fantasies that like to travel into my face hole: an enormous Devil Dog style-cake (with hot fudge and sprinkles) and a glass jug simply marked “Jackie’s Daiquiris.”
“Pinch me,” I said to Poppy.
“Why?” she asked. In the middle school where she rolls, no one ever asks first.
“I think I’m in heaven.”
The birthday girl’s mom and dad are the kind of parents who make their own peach-infused wine with the fetal buds of the tree they grew from a seedling, build a magazine-cover addition on their home and gift you the ceramic cups you were admiring before you enjoy one of their many flaming desserts. And they make this type of uber-entertaining seem easier than microwaving popcorn, all while wearing pressed, unstained clothing with bodies that see the inside of the gym far more often than daiquiris see the inside of my mouth.
I, on the other hand, was dressed in what I call “proletariat chic” and my long hair and vandyked beard made me look as though I was trying out for the lead in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Before I waved hello, I ate two satanic embryos, four hogs-in-quilts and one chocolate painted fruit, washing it down with the kind of daiquiri that made me feel like I owe this Jackie a kidney if she ever needs one.
While I was ladling chocolatey goodness onto a slice of cake the size of a dictionary, the party-going kids came scampering back. A few had applied paint to their faces in attempts to be kitties or Pokémon, but the effect was closer to jaundice and that flesh-eating virus that kept many of us awake back in 2003.
“Hey Dad,” my son London said. Happily, his face didn’t look like the beefy woman’s who co-starred with Drew Carey on his TV show.
“How’s the party?”
“Fun. We’ve been outside.” He squinted up at me. “Oh, and Dad, you have food on your nose.”
“Thanks, homeboy.” As I grabbed a napkin, I saw a towheaded girl search frantically by the overflowing gift table. My wife Lala kindly went up to her and joined the hunt.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
Lala lifted up the yellow tablecloth. “Can’t find her shoes.”
“I know where they are,” London said.
“Can you go get them for her?”
“Not really.” He scrunched his nose. “Sylvie’s wearing them.”
“It’s true,” the birthday girl said, handing out hand-printed T-shirts as party favors. “She is. But she left.”
After some impish investigation, it seemed that this Sylvie had wanted to romp outside with London and his pal Joe and couldn’t find her boots so she just slipped on the sneakers of the now-hysterical girl. And then Sylvie skidaddled. Lala mumbled something about a Sex and the City episode, but I wanted to go before the blond became the next irate shoe thrower on YouTube.
In the parking lot, we saw the loafer lifter leaving with her dad. “Hey!” Lala yelled, flagging them down like they had run over a dachshund. “Sylvie, you have someone else’s sneakers on.”
“Couldn’t find mine,” she said quite matter-of-factly about her footwear thieving. I next expected her to spit: “Ain’t no thang.”
After Lala finished her new job as the shoe fairy, swapping boots for trainers, we walked to our cars.
“That was weird,” Poppy said, holding a piece of cake wrapped in cellophane.
“Yeah,” I agreed, eyeing the cake. “It was, but they sure do know how to put on the feedbag.”
Rob Wilder’s latest book is Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge. His column, “Daddy Needs a Drink,” appears the first Wednesday of each month in the Reporter.