Jake has always been such an easy eater with a fun and relatively healthy relationship with food. He will try almost any dish (excluding some of the more stomach-wrenching ones he witnessed Anthony Bourdain try on his food/travel series). At just ten years of age he has gulleted raw oysters, sushi, and shows a preference at any meal for mussels. His favorite foods are not common for this MacDonald's generation: baby lamb chops, oysters on the grill, lobster, veal chops, artichokes. So when his eleventh birthday rolled around on Tuesday, he requested--with the same deliberance one would choose a last meal--Weinerschnitzel, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and cake for dessert.
I grilled him hard about dessert. He is not a sweets consumer, but he is a sweets procurer. Halloween night, like with every other child, was spent rifling through his bounty. The difference was that he had a trashcan by the bed, into which he tossed unfortunate tootsie rolls and dum-dums. Valentine's Day has to include chocolate, but I'll be throwing away the uneaten portion by mid-March. "Are you sure you want a birthday cake?" I pushed him. "You really love strawberry shortcake." He was adamant. He wanted the presentation that a grand cake provides.
I set to work Tuesday morning after dropping him off. I thought a three-layer caramel cake might interest him, since previous coconut and Italian creme cakes have left him unimpressed. I put turtles on the outside edge, and caramalized pecans on top. And he did love the look of the cake when he arrived home from school, probably as much as he loved the pile of presents on the table. His patience, in both dessert devouring and present opening, is so much better than mine. I have been known to pester my birthday gift givers to the point of their feeling complete hatred of the entire month of May, but Jake walked by the dining room table without a finger in the icing, nary a poke of a package.
He adored dinner, entirely appreciated the presents, and contemplated his all-important birthday wish until the candles had almost burned themselves out. And as Eric and I consumed the cake with numerous sighs and eye rolling, Jake ate a bite and said, "I'm just not a cake person." I wish I weren't. There's a pair of leggings in my closet I am petrified to wear because the cakes are so darn good.
Meanwhile, I have told you how often I scoop things out of Olivia's mouth, namely every little thing that is on the floor. She has helped me relax a little, since her little tastebuds have begun to rely on my startled, fearful No! when she dexteriously pincers a delectable tidbit like a paper shred or a staple. Unfortunately on Tuesday night, however, a crumb of caramel cake apparently hit the floor, surely from Jake's portion. And my Wednesday morning No! did not come until after it had hit her tongue, and her look at me was heartwrenching. In that moment, her eyes told me, she learned the truth about the gastronomic floor wonders I had been been denying her. So now she is back at it again, scouring the floor, shoving unknown items into her mouth with the same fervor as a second-time heroine user, searching for that amazing caramel cake high that changed her life forever.
My days are once again spent frantically vacuuming while she naps, chasing her every step and wiping her hands off. And it will be a long time before she trusts that, maternally, my every goal is not to keep her from experiencing pleasure. Oh, wait a minute--yes it is.