Anniversaries, Part 1

There are two notable anniversaries for me this week. Yesterday was the nineteenth anniversary of Beth’s and my commitment ceremony. Saturday will be the first anniversary of my father’s death. Let’s take them one at a time. We’ll start with the happy one.

“Beth will say this cake is so beautiful she doesn’t want to eat it,” June predicted as we finished decorating the cake. Every year on or around our anniversary, I bake a spice cake using the recipe from our wedding cake. Some years I decorate the frosting with pink and purple sprinkles (because the potted violets we gave away as favors were pink and purple) but this was the first year I ever colored the frosting itself. I did this on a whim because we had food dye on hand and our supply of purple sprinkles was running low. I hesitated as I wondered about whether lemon frosting should really be purple, but June seemed to think it was a surprisingly good idea to come from the likes of me and she was exasperated I was reconsidering. She helped me drop the red and blue dye into the frosting, spread it over the cake and sprinkle lots of pink sprinkles and a few purple ones onto the cake.

Shortly after we finished the cake it was time to take her to school, and in all the excitement of a field trip to The National Museum of Health and Medicine ( she forgot all about the excitement of having a babysitter that evening while Beth and I went out to dinner. She only remembered when she heard me telling Noah he would need to stay focused on his homework and not get distracted by June and the babysitter playing. By this time it was five o’ clock, an hour before the sitter and Beth were scheduled to arrive. I glanced outside. Snow was predicted for the late afternoon and evening and the sitter had emailed me earlier in the day to say she might bail if it was too heavy, but so far so good. It was drizzling a little but no snow.

I think it’s been six months or so since Beth and I have had a date, so I was eager for this one to work out. I made a checklist for Noah of homework he needed to complete before he could play on the computer or our new Wii. He had quite a lot of homework—several complicated math problems, putting the finishing touches on his report about modern Germany, studying for quiz on early American settlements, cursive practice and percussion practice. I had suggested to Beth that if the sitter didn’t show up and she felt okay about driving that we all four go out to dinner because I felt like celebrating and not cooking, but seeing all Noah had to get done, I was having second thoughts about the feasibility of that plan.

By 5:50, the rain had turned to freezing rain, but the sitter made it. I put noodles, broccoli, kidney beans and mozzarella cheese on the table for the kids to eat and instructed the sitter to keep June busy and out of Noah’s hair so he could work. Beth came home around six. June hurried to give us the anniversary cards she had made for us that afternoon. They had no words because she didn’t want to ask me how to spell anything for my own card, but each one had a picture of the cake on it inside and out. Then we took Beth into the kitchen to see the cake. “It’s so beautiful I don’t want to eat it,” she exclaimed. (Okay, I fed her that line by email earlier in the day.) June beamed but she didn’t seem too surprised. It was what she had predicted after all.

As we stepped carefully on the slippery driveway on our way to the car, I wondered how far down his list Noah would make it without me there to keep him on track and I told Beth I hoped I could forget about it and just enjoy the evening because it was out of my hands. She agreed; it was out of my hands.

I didn’t forget exactly but I didn’t worry much either. As we drove away from the house, I felt responsibility sliding off my shoulders. We had a really nice dinner at Roscoe’s (, free because we had a gift certificate. I got an arugula salad with gorgonzola and wild mushroom crostini. Beth got marinated olives, an eggplant crostini and a small margherita pizza. We exchanged presents. I got her Lynda Barry’s new book ( and she got me some much needed new rain boots. We had an uninterrupted conversation and I felt happy that the sobbing preschooler at a nearby table was not ours. In the middle of our dinner, the rain changed over to snow, big beautiful flakes falling in light of the streetlights outside the restaurant.

When we got home around 7:40, June rushed to the door and said, “Do you remember about your anniversary cake?” We remembered, I assured her. I checked Noah’s to-do list. He had completed only the math and the report, but those were the most important items. We ate cake and then I quizzed him on facts about the Jamestown, Plymouth and St. Mary’s (that last one was the first English settlement in Maryland—Noah’s class took a field trip there in October) as I ran the water for his bath. He went to bed without having done the cursive practice or having practiced his percussion. I had a feeling there would be a two-hour delay or no school at all the next day. (There was in fact a two-hour delay and he did complete all his homework before he left for school, and got some sledding in, too). I was not too stressed about the unfinished homework, considerably less stressed than I would normally have been, in fact. It had done me good to get away, if just for an hour and a half, and to spend a little of 1/11/11 with my number one.