February is a month of birthdays for us. A few days after R was born, we had a home-visit by a registered nurse. She booked me into a February mum’s group meet in my area and I went because I didn’t know how to say no. Two years on, we still catch up. It’s interesting to watch other mums parent toddlers the same age as mine and watch the little ones grow.
It’s interesting how differently each of us celebrates birthdays. We split R’s into 3 parts. Initially, it was just going to be a holiday to a scenic place so that she could experience something wonderful and have beautiful pictures to remember it by.
“We will have parties for her when she’s old enough to ask for it and remember it”, I said to her dad.
On the first day of her birthday week, as we lay in bed going through our morning routine of breastfeeding and chatting, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She stared back at me for so long that I was sure she didn’t understand. I told her it was her “Happy Birthday”. What did she want?
“Cake. Dose. Happy Birthday to you”, she said, after thinking for a few seconds.
She wanted a cake and a birthday song. She was old enough to ask for a birthday party? Oh no! What was I going to do, with 2 days to go? And dose! Dose is a South Indian breakfast item that is very much like a crepe. I’ve tried to maker her dose a couple of times, since our last India visit, as she kept asking for it. She never liked it because it just wasn’t like ammamma’s (grandma’s) dose. I’d given up trying and she’d not mentioned it in weeks. Then all of a sudden, she drops this one me! How was I going to arrange for dose at such short notice? There isn’t one Indian restaurant that does justice to the South Indian dose.
The next couple of days flew by in a frenzy. Her dad and I were desperately trying to source some dose batter. We managed to get rice flour and urad dal (black gram) flour. I made the batter on Monday night and left it to ferment over the next 24 – 36 hours. I couldn’t possibly pull off a party with friends, at two days notice, so we decided to split the birthday party into 2 parts. On the actual day, we would make a special cake and do a 3-people party, involving mum, dad and her. On the next day, when she goes to daycare, she could have another mini-party with her friends. Win-win. I didn’t know if we could pull it off but I was ready to give it my all.
I used my lunch breaks at work to go shopping for dark yellow and black things to go with the digger theme I’d planned for the party. I found a cake recipe on Pinterest to make an excavator cake that seemed doable. I managed to find a toy digger during one of these excursions that would serve as a stand-by if my digger cake failed. Ultimately it could be her birthday ‘theme present’. Things seemed to be falling in place but I knew the previous night would be a long night for her dad and me. We had to bake the cake and put up the decorations so we could surprise her when she woke up in the morning.
We decided to do it in the same style as her first birthday. We’d do her shower and dress her up in her new clothes before she stepped out of the room, in the morning. We’d set up cameras in the living room and wait for her to make an entry. Last year, it was the most amazing thing watching her expression as she walked in and saw the decorations and balloons, for the first time. Her presents were strewn on the floor and she ran to one of them, screaming,
I wasn’t sure if we could outdo that this year but we put in some serious efforts to do just that.
As I walked back to work one afternoon, after a disappointed attempt to find the kind of construction/excavator themed buntings I had in mind, I decided that I would make some. All I needed was the right coloured paper. If I could somehow get hold of a dark shade yellow post-its, I could use black to slick it up. The post-its I had were all light yellow and I’d never seen dark coloured ones. Fortunately, the Universe was with me on this one. When I went to get coffee in the office kitchen later that day, what do I find? An abandoned stack of orangish, dark yellow post-its by the microwave. The exact shade of yellow post-its that I wanted, lying there begging me to claim them. I was besides myself with joy. I took it. How could I not? Sometimes parents do silly things for their children. I know she is too young to appreciate the exact shade of yellow or the creativity I put into it but maybe when she grows older, she will. Even if she doesn’t, I know it had to be just right… for me.
That night, as the cake was baking in the oven, her dad and I got to work on the decorations. We had one area of the living room marked off for the birthday party. I had yellow wrapping paper and another grey one with black stripes. We cut it up into triangles and voila, we had the easiest DIY buntings ever made! The post-its converted into a set of alphabets wishing her a happy birthday. A few white balloons and we were set. On a spur-of-the-moment inspiration, her dad invited her dolls to join the party. They crowded around the table, perched on her couch and ‘swing’/bouncer. Some marshmallows on sticks and a candle indicating ‘2’ adorned the table, along with the digger present, while the Digger cake (I had to settle for a white colour) sat at the centre.
The cake was originally meant to look like this but mine didn’t. Of the two cakes that were required to make the digger, one of them turned out soft. It was very yummy but too soft to be cut up and form part of a digger. In fact, it broke in two places as I lifted it out of the baking tin and transferred it to the cake board. I was having a creative spell at the time and decided that it looked like a construction site, cracks and all. I’m not an expert at making cakes and found to my dismay that the yellow food colour did nothing to the cake. It was brown once it was cooked. Fortunately, when the cake became the construction site on which the digger would sit, brown was just the colour I needed. As fate would have it, the second cake turned out to be a bit hard. It had more of a shortening kind of consistency than a cake once I removed it from the freezer, where it had sat for a day with the other cake. However, that made it easy to cut it up without cracking. Hurray! I used that one to make the digger. As I mentioned earlier, I’m no expert. My digger, while it sort of looked like one, turned out to be slightly big and took up the entire area of the bottom cake. Also, it was white. Thank God we weren’t having guests over!
When we went to bed, I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep right away. I hoped that she would be excited. That was my last thought as I drifted off, some time into the early hours of the next day.