Liam turned 11 in early January. He has one of those tricky birthdays right after a holiday. Just days following the faded lights, sounds, and presents of Christmas, we lurch into birthday mode. The ridiculousness of having two major celebrations so close together pushed me one year to celebrate Liam’s “half birthday” when he was around five. I probably read about it in a parenting magazine; for children whose birthdays are close to a major holiday, celebrate their half birthday – six months after their actual birthday. This celebration felt forced, false, and fabulously difficult to explain to aunts and uncles. The confused look on Liam’s young face confirmed that we would roll best with one birthday celebration, which would be on his birthday. Not one for a lot of noise and chaos, Liam isn’t into big parties. Often we are traveling in the days around his birthday. This year, he had a rather forceful demand: no traveling by air or car on his actual birthday. (Did we really do that one year?) He also wanted to be with his buddies in Chicago on his actual birthday. Our friends there have two boys, and our four boys have grown up in a sweet stair-step friendship; her boys are older – a freshman and a senior in high school. Despite several hundred miles and only seeing one another a couple times a year, the boys fall into sync when they are together. The connection may be cemented day-to-day via hand-me-downs. “That shirt is from Craig? AWESOME!” Those boys are never too far from mind. “They are kind of like my mentors, aren’t they, Mom?” Yes, Liam.
After a celebration with family in Iowa and another celebration with our friends in Chicago – highlighted with a dinner at a Japanese steak house where the food was cooked on a grill in front of us – we headed home. In the following days, Liam couldn’t believe how talented Keith was. Who is Keith? We wondered the same: the chef who cooked for us at the restaurant.
On the flight back to Boston, I told Liam we could send in a birthday treat for his class at the end of the week. That worked for him. Snickerdoodles, please. A perfect peanut-free choice for school. One little boy in Liam’s class has a severe peanut allergy. As I thought about it, I worried. We are a peanut butter family: PBJ sandwiches, peanut butter with ice cream, peanut butter and apples. I don’t bake with peanut butter, but just to be safe, I scalded every bowl, spoon, beater, cookie pan, and spatula with hot, soapy water before it touched the cookie dough. My hands cracked open and were raw after the episode. However, there were two dozen perfect, peanut-free Snickerdoodles on the cooling rack. Even the last batch was not burnt.
Liam took the container of cookies with him to school the next day. I had also bought five pounds of strawberries, Liam’s favorite fruit, for him to take in but didn’t have them cleaned in time for drop-off. I was content with the Snickerdoodles; then an 8 a.m. appointment I had in the morning was canceled – giving me a window of opportunity to clean the strawberries and get them to school. More water on the hands; they were as red as the strawberries by the end of the washing and stemming, but I could feel the gold stars piling up on the Mom Chart! Everything was clicking! I dropped off the see-through plastic container of strawberries at the front desk with delivery directions.
Throughout the day, I smothered my hands with Eucerin cream to help them heal from the prior day’s peanut-free baking episode and the morning's strawberry cleaning. At pick-up time, a smiling Liam came around the corner of the school carrying the empty containers. “I didn’t know you were sending in strawberries!” I told him it was a last minute surprise for him and asked him how it went.
“Great, but Teddy is allergic to strawberries, so he sat in the hallway while we had strawberries and Snickerdoodles.” No!!! “It’s OK, Mom, he was fine with it – and Snickerdoodles don’t have peanuts, so he had his cookies in the hallway.”
I sent in immaculately clean Snickerdoodles for Teddy, accompanied by five pounds of poisonous fruit. My gold stars melted away.