The timer dinged just as Sara was writing “Mom” on the cake. She finished the word, swiped her fingers on a dishcloth and grabbed some potholders, hoping the brownies hadn’t burnt around the edges by now. She opened the oven door and gave them a gentle poke in the middle. Ah, just right. As she set the brownies on a rack to cool their scent mingled with the smell of caramel squares and cinnamon cookies.
Sara looked around, satisfied. The chocolate icing was made and could be spread in a moment once they’d cooled. The cinnamon cookies sat in a plate on the table, as artistically displayed as she could manage. The other squares were iced, cut, and waiting for the brownies to join them on their platter. The teapot and kettle were ready for action. Now she could take a short break.
Her eyes returned to the masterpiece: the cake for her mother-in-law. Covered in blue icing, it read “Happy Birthday, Mom” in bright pink letters with an icing bow across the top and scrolled pink loops around the edges. She grinned, delighted that her nervousness didn’t show up in squiggly lines and loops. Surely her mother-in-law would be pleased.
Sara glanced at the clock. Another half hour until the guests would arrive, forty-five minutes until Dad brought Mom to the party. There was nothing left to clean; she’d been up early polishing her kitchen and dining room until they shone. Time for a breather. She’d leave all the food here in the kitchen until the ladies arrived.
Before she left the room she took her mother-in-law’s gift down from the fridge and set it on the table, too. A gift-wrapped box with a big bow on top, it would have been too hard for Kyle’s little fingers to resist. But he was napping now and likely wouldn’t wake up until the door bell started ringing.
Just to be sure, Sara peeked into her three-year-old son’s bedroom. Kyle was zonked out. It was safe for her to rest awhile. Then she grabbed a magazine, sat in the recliner, and put her feet up. She thumbed through the glossy pages of Parents Today and came to an article for making play dough. It was accompanied by a photo of play food, including a birthday cake. She thought of her cake, smiled with satisfaction and put her head back.
She was decorating cakes in her dream when a thump from the kitchen woke her up. She glanced at her watch. She must have dozed off for ten minutes. But she hadn’t heard the doorbell; anyway, it wasn’t time for folks to come yet. She let down the footrest and listened.
Then from the kitchen came Kyle’s voice. “Mommy. I’m helping Grandma.”
If there were a record established for ‘broad-jump from a sitting position’ Sara broke it. Could she make it in time?
She flew to the kitchen, then stopped.
Kyle sat on the floor amidst shreds of wrapping paper, pulling Grandma’s new sweater out of the box with chocolate-covered hands. Grandma hadn’t arrived yet.
He beamed up at her, his face slathered with pink, blue and chocolate icing. “I’m opening Grandma’s present for her so she won’t have to.”
Sara’s jaw dropped as she looked around the room. How could two little hands accomplish so much destruction in such a few minutes? Cookies and squares were scattered across the table. He’d found her spatula and cut a corner off the birthday cake with it, leaving pink and blue icing smears in his wake.
Sara didn’t trust herself to speak — or she’d screech. Which wouldn’t change anything, right? She glanced at the clock, took Grandma’s sweater from Kyle’s colorful hands and stuffed it back into the box. Without a word she scooped him off the floor and headed for the bathroom sink. She still had ten minutes.
As to Grandma’s sweater, well… Sara thought of how Grandma always said as Kyle snuggled on her lap, “Enjoy your children when they’re little.” Now her words would be put to the test.
Since I missed posting Fiction on Friday, I’ll post my tale today. Hope you enjoy it. Need I say this story is based on an all-too-true incident. I’d be glad to hear how you’d react if you faced the situation Sara did.