The birthday girl and nutty little Jake
On Saturday afternoon Rob and I went to my sister Kris’s house to celebrate her birthday. Kris’s daughter, Sophie, who’s nine, planned the entire party, baked the cake (with my mom’s help), and saw to every detail. It was a summery beach-themed party, and Sophie insisted that we all wear plastic leis. She made her own pink-lemonade popsicles, and there was pink-lemonade punch, too, which she served in fancy glasses with orange slices and little paper umbrellas to garnish. The cake was a masterpiece, shaped and decorated like a pair of large flip-flops. The straps were Fruit by the Foot.
“Who thought of using that?” I asked.
“I thought of it,” Sophie said. She was very proud.
The frosting was purple, and the flip-flops were polka-dotted with Sprees. Everyone oohed and ah-ed and snapped pictures.
“Sophie,” I said, “you could be the next Martha Stewart!”
Sophie made a sad/mad face.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“You’re saying I’m like a person with gray hair?!”
“I was merely comparing your talents,” I said. “I was saying your talents are comparable.” I rolled my eyes. “Believe me, I know you are way hotter than Martha Stewart.”
“That’s right,” Sophie said. She’s always telling us (only half jokingly) that she is “naturally hot.”
And she wonders aloud how she ended up hot when nobody else in the family did.
Sophie really was being very Martha Stewart-ish. Kris was getting out chips and some other snacks for the party, and Sophie said, truly concerned, “Mommy, you’re not going to put out that weird old pound cake from Walmart, are you?”
“No, Martha,” Kris said, rolling her eyes. “I’m not.”
There was a ton of food. Mom brought a broccoli salad with sliced almonds, a peach crisp made with fresh peaches, and big trays full of delicious tempeh wraps. My sister Bunny brought a beautiful fruit platter with lots of fat cherries, and watermelon cut into star shapes. I just brought my old black bean salad (yawn yawn).
Sophie was so proud of her cake and her popsicles and her frosty pink punch. She posed for pictures with the cake and soaked up the compliments.
I said, “What flavor is the cake, Sophie?”
“Foot,” Matt (Bunny’s husband) said.
Sophie said, “It’s Funfetti. Be quiet, Matt.”
I said, “Sophie, I can’t wait until you open your restaurant.” This has always been her plan, to open a restaurant—ever since she was five. She always promised she’d open a restaurant and hire all us fork-ups, her family, to work there.
“I’m not going to open a restaurant,” Sophie announced. “I changed my mind. I’m going to be a teacher! I want summers off!”
“But wait,” I said. “I thought you were going to hire me to work for you. Um, in fact, I was kind of counting on it.”
“Sorry,” she said, giggling, perhaps a little nervously. And then, as if to cheer me up: “. . . Oh, well, you’ll probably be dead by then anyway.”
Gee, I sure hope not.
Sophie had picked out a beautiful bouquet of helium balloons for the party, including one shaped like a very cute owl. Jake (Sophie’s little brother, age six) asked if he could have a balloon. She said yes, but of course it popped right away. That’s just Jake’s luck—and the result of his six-year-old clumsiness and spazziness.
The next time I saw him he was walking around with his bottom lip sticking out.
“What’s the matter with Jake?” I asked.
“He’s mad,” Kris said.
“Why?” I asked.
“His balloon popped,” Kris said.
And Mom cried, “But Hum will get him another one!” (Two things you should know: The kids call Mom “Hum” and Hum loves to spoil Jake.)
Kris rolled her eyes at Mom/Hum, “Oh, I’m sure you will.”
Kris was all dressed up for her party. She looked great! (I hadn’t even taken a shower before coming over.) She was wearing a hot pink lei and long dangling earrings and a hot pink maxi dress, very light and breezy and silky. She looked like she was staying at a fancy Hawaiian resort.
Of course she was only able to keep the outfit on for a minute, because this was a pool party and Jake was itching to dive in.
“Leslie, are you getting in the pool?” he kept asking. “Leslie, are you getting in? Are you getting in now? When are you getting in, Leslie?”
Jake is very intense. I love him. He’s so enthusiastic. He’s so small, only six, and he doesn’t want to be ignored, so he’s always shouting.
We started the party off with a nice competitive game of volleyball, boys against girls. Emotions generally run high when we divide up this way, and this particular game was no exception. Jake kept swimming under the net in the middle of play, coming over to the girls’ side to talk trash. “Girls drool!” he’d shout. “Hey, Sophie, girls drool!”
He looked so cute, so slippery and smooth. It’s impossible to take him seriously with his big blue eyes and brand-new teeth.
We kept pushing him back over to the boys’ side.
Rob was saying, “Come on, Jake, you’ve got to keep your head in the game. And anyway, that’s poor sportsmanship.”
But every time the boys scored, Jake would have to swim under the net and shout, “In your face, Sophie!”
As I said, it was highly competitive game, and examples of poor sportsmanship abounded. “Hit it to Leslie,” Matt would say in his deadpan way. “She’s terrible.”
We girls were screaming and cheering and reveling in the guys’ every mistake and failure. We kept accusing them of cheating, even though we had no real basis for our accusations (just a nagging sense of injustice). And they did the same to us.
“That was totally out!”
“It was on the line!”
“It was out!”
In the end the guys won (because they cheated), and Rob started whooping and cheering in the most obnoxious frat-boy way (“Woo!!!! Yeah!!! We’re no. 1!!!!”)—just to be funny. Jake seemed so surprised by this whole rowdy display, especially when Rob (still hooting and cheering) scooped him up and bore him aloft in a celebration of victory—then threw him in the water.
When Jake finally came up for air, Phil (his father) said in his soft way, “What happened there,
Buddy? You okay?”
Jake didn’t seem to be quite sure about the answer to either question.
“We were celebrating,” Rob explained to Jake sheepishly. “It was cool . . . right?”
Jake nodded, gasping (I think he almost drowned). And then about 10 minutes later when he had recovered sufficiently, he said, “Hey, Rob, wanna do that good sportsmanship thing again?”
“You mean when we were celebrating?” Rob said. “Um, that was actually bad sportsmanship, Jake. I think maybe you’re a little confused about the whole concept.”
But he still scooped Jake up and tossed him into the water again.
Meanwhile, Sophie was preparing for our next game. It was a game she had read about in American Girl magazine and it involved diving for coin-filled plastic Easter eggs.
The guys kept giving her a hard time about the game because it came out of American Girl.
“Okay, you sexist geeks,” Kris said, rolling her eyes. “We’ll say it came out of American Man magazine. Does that make it better?”
Rob was whooping, “Woo, yeah, American Man!”
Poor Sophie was working so hard, filling the plastic eggs with coins, trying to explain to everybody the game’s very complicated rules. And meanwhile all the guys were balking and sassing her, being uncooperative, threatening not to play.
Rob was saying, “We’ll just swim while you girls play with your dollies and your tea cozies.”
And Jake was copying him, shouting, “Yeah, let the girls play with their dumb tea cups and we will play Marco Polo!”
And still, Sophie soldiered on, preparing her game. And Jake shouted, “Yeah, let the girls play with their dumb Easter baskets! . . . Right, Rob? Right? We will do boy stuff!”
Obviously, he loved to think that he and Rob were on the same page. Even so, he was not afraid to yell at Rob in an effort to be hilarious. (Jake is always trying to be hilarious.) Whenever Rob would give him crap, which was at least every five minutes, Jake would shout, “Why don’t you shut it, Rob? Hey Rob, why don’t you shut it?”
He also told Matt to shut it a few times. And his own father.
I asked, “Jake, why do you keep telling everyone to shut it?”
“Shut it, Leslie!” Jake shouted. I should have seen that one coming.
Finally everything was ready for Sophie’s game. Each team had to dive for eggs, and whichever team collected the most money, won. The boys were cheating and quitting the whole time, and we girls triumphed in the end—because of our superior team spirit. We collected 28 cents.
We played a second time, but this time the game evolved into a sort of relay race that involved swimming and grabbing an egg out of the deep end while wearing a plastic lei, then swimming back and passing off the lei to your teammate. It also involved trash talk galore and half the boys’ team quitting.
“Time to sing Happy Birthday!” Mom called.
Mom is so funny. She’s always kind of bossy and always kind of directing things. She was busily slicing cake and pouring pink lemonade. She poured too much into one glass and it was overflowing, so she started yelling at Kris, “Sip it! Come on! Get your face down there and sip it good! Don’t let it spill on the table!” And Kris was so funny because she obeyed without hesitation.
Everybody had a big slice of the flip-flop cake. As Sophie was eating hers, she giggled, “I think I might have put on a few pounds. The only thing I’ve eaten for the last three days is cake!”
I had to giggle too. She’s very slim and only nine.
Oh, one last funny thing. While we ate, Jake entertained us with a dance he and Sophie had made up to music provided by this stupid little musical baby toy—a dumb little plastic truck, a remnant of their younger years. Jake wound up the truck and started to dance very seriously, pumping his fists in the air to the wimpy, almost undetectable sound. It was so hard not to laugh. Of course, he was dancing in nothing but his superhero underwear.
Sophie's luscious pink lemonade
The awesome flip-flop cake
Happy Jake. Don't you love his funny new teeth?
Jake telling me to "shut it"
Sophie, insulted that I compared her to that hag Martha Stewart
Pretty Sophie, a wonderful hostess