Oh, What a Beautiful Day!

“I might be going to the co-op today. Do you want anything?” I asked Beth. We were standing in the bathroom, snatching a brief conversation in between the everyday crises of a weekday morning. Noah was dragging his feet about getting ready for school. We were out of eggs. Our internet connection had gone missing.

“Eggs,” she replied, naming my second reason for going.

“I’m after yogurt,” I told her. “I’m going to measure what we have and see if there’s enough.”

“What do you need it for?” Beth asked.

“The cake,” I answered, smiling a little. The cookbook had been on the kitchen counter open to the recipe since the day before.

“Oh, the cake!” Beth said, sudden realization showing on her face. “Happy Anniversary!” she said. We exchanged a quick kiss. Our grown-up celebration, when we leave June with a paid sitter for the first time ever and have brunch at Savory, will be Sunday so it had slipped her mind that the actual day was today.

Now if you’re scratching your head and thinking, “Wasn’t there an anniversary post on this blog not six months ago?” we celebrate two, the dating anniversary in July and the commitment ceremony anniversary in January. I guess we do it for the same reason we celebrate the kids’ half-birthdays. We like celebrations and we like cake.

The cake is a moist, dense spice cake with a lemon glaze. It was our wedding cake and I’ve made it almost every January 11 since 1992, the year of our commitment ceremony.

Our commitment ceremony was largely a homemade affair. We were just months out of grad school (the first round for me). Beth had a part-time job at ERIC (www.eric.ed.gov/) and for most of the time between my proposal in July and the ceremony in January I was unemployed. I started working at Project Vote (www.projectvote.org/) in mid-December. Our parents were less supportive of our relationship than they are now, so we were on our own when it came to planning and financing the ceremony.

Except we weren’t, not really. A friend with bakery experience decorated the cake. Another friend helped us track down all the pink and purple potted violets and purple eucalyptus branches available at local florists and one of my college advisors paid for them. Guests brought food and made speeches and wrote touching notes in the guest book. Although we were pinched for cash (we had a thousand dollar budget), it ended up being just what we wanted, small and personal and meaningful. Better still, it served as a turning point in our parents’ acceptance of us as a couple. Five of the six parents and stepparents attended and after the ceremony the two who were having the hardest time letting go of their vision of how their daughters’ lives would unfold started to come around, one quickly and the other gradually.

We didn’t have enough yogurt so after Beth and Noah were gone, June was bathed and a load of laundry was started, we ventured out into a cold and drizzly morning, headed for the co-op where I purchased yogurt, eggs and an anniversary card.

I made the cake in the afternoon, shortly before Noah’s bus came. I managed to get most of the ingredients into the bowl while June was in the high chair eating a late lunch of vegetarian hot dogs and succotash, so I only had the add the last few, mix them up and pour the batter into the greased pan while she clung to my legs and screamed. This is the hallmark of a successful baking experience by my current standards. I had a moment’s hesitation before pouring out the batter. It seemed thin. I wondered if I’d only put in one cup of flour instead of two. I was almost sure I’d put in two, though, so I slid the pan into the oven and hoped for the best.

When Noah got home, the clouds were clearing so we played outside a bit, and then the focus of the day shifted to getting him undressed, into his bathing suit and back into his clothes by 4:00 p.m.. He had a swimming lesson at 5:30 and he watches television from 4:00 to 5:00 most weekdays. June usually watches with him so I used most of the hour to work on an editing project I’m doing for Word Girl (www.wordgirl.biz), interrupted every five or ten minutes or so by June coming in with her little cup held out Oliver Twist-style while she pleaded “Mir ov?” (Translation: “More olives.” Sliced black olives are one of June’s favorite afternoon snacks and she can really put them away.) When only fifteen minutes remained, I checked to see if the cake was cool and I poured the glaze over it. Then I outlined it with a ring of red frosting from a can (leftover from Beth’s Buzz cake) and drew a sixteen in the middle. Finally I sprinkled pink and purple sparkles (meant to evoke the pink and purple violets) liberally over the whole creation. Noah came in to see it when his television was over and he declared it “beautiful.”

Beth was home by 5:05 and we hurried to get everyone’s shoes and jackets on and to get out the door. We were going out for pizza after Noah’s lesson and it seemed quickest for everyone to leave together. June, who had been trying to organize the expedition–“Shoes on! Mommy jacket on! Where Baf?”—now trotted happily down the driveway, holding my hand. Despite the fact that she usually has no idea where we are going, she is always up for a trip. We got everyone buckled in. Beth turned the key in the ignition. And the car didn’t start.

Beth closed her eyes in frustration. Just the night before she’d come home early to attend Math Night at Noah’s school when they got in the car, the battery wouldn’t start. They’d walked to school instead and afterward her auto service came to jump-start the car. She’d driven around a while and we thought it was fixed. Everyone got out of the car. June’s face crumpled and she began to cry when I took her out of her seat and she was snatched from the brink an outing.

“I think we should still go out,” Beth said. “We should do the fun part, go out for pizza.” So she called the Y and rescheduled Noah’s lesson for Sunday afternoon, then we all trooped out to the bus stop. As we waited for a bus, she said, “I’m glad we’re a hardy family and can change plans like this.”

Once we were on a bus, we called to order ahead and once we arrived at zpizza (zpizza.com/), there was a small pineapple pizza for the kids and a pesto, eggplant and pine nut one for the grownups ready and waiting. The eggplant slices were cut into a flower pattern and they were so pretty against the green background of the pesto that I almost didn’t want to take a slice until Beth, who was waiting in a long line for drinks, had a chance to see the whole effect. But it seemed foolish not to eat when the kids were eating because who knew when they’d been tearing around the restaurant like maniacs, so after I cut June’s slice into pieces and slipped Beth’s card onto her plate, I ate.

The pizza was delicious, the kids did not descend into any truly uncivilized behavior (though June did deconstruct a stack of booster seats so she could sit in each one in turn) and we left the restaurant happy.

As we approached the bus stop we noticed a 17, the bus we needed, pulling away. They come every twenty minutes so we were in for a wait. As we got closer to the stop we noticed there was a line of buses (all different routes) standing at the stop and not moving. This was because traffic wasn’t moving. At all. We might be in for an even longer wait than we thought. I took June out of the stroller prematurely when I thought I saw a 17 approaching the stop (it was a 16). This was a grave error, because once unrestrained she wanted to run. She did not want to sit next to me on the bench. She did not want for me to be held (my mind flashed back to the afternoon when I had been trying to mix cake batter and it had been imperative that she be held). She squirmed and cried and twisted through a very long wait. Once we got on a bus, it limped along until the traffic cleared a couple blocks from the stop and we were on our way home.

We got home around 7:45, much later than we expected, so we couldn’t watch Fraggle Rock and we decided to skip Noah’s bath. We sat around the table to eat cake. I was a bit nervous slicing into it–had I really put two cups’ flour in? And it was fine, a moist, dense spicy cake, deeply familiar, and deeply comforting. Because even though it was rainy and cold and Noah missed his swim lesson, the important things still turned out fine. We had each other’s company, hot pizza waiting for us, a beautiful cake at home. And no matter what the weather or what plans go awry on it, January 11 will always be a beautiful day.