Who Rescued Who?

November 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

The excitement began before today even arrived. Today is Kris’s birthday. The boy and I planned a surprise. I found instructions for baking a cake in a crock pot; so we gathered ingredients for this great one-bowl cake and made it here in the tiny house.

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake

1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1. Spray crock of a large slow cooker with cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in the boiling water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.
3. Pour the cake batter into the prepared slow cooker.
4. Set slow cooker to “Low”. Cook until cake has no wet spots on top and has pulled away from the sides of the crock, about 3 hours. Turn off slow cooker and allow cake to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

In the dark of the morning, we reviewed the plan. Who was going to do what? Duty lists were established as we had early morning libations. Under a tent made out of blankets, cold coffee gave rise to the course of the day. The name of the game: Cake Surprise.

We tried to be quiet this morning. Kris had been up all night worrying about Pippa. Pippa, one of our cat family, has been seriously ill. She has a genetic disorder that causes blisters in her digestive tract, sometimes making it impossible for her to eat. Plans for treatment exhausted, they decided to do an endoscopy to diagnose the problem. The results, today, would decide the course of her life.

It would be a grief to witness this in anyone; but in Pippa, it is a deeper heartache. When she lays a paw on you, it settles all the way in. Her eyes catch yours and an understanding is passed.

Pippa is one of the smallest cats. slight, with a small, heart-shaped face; but she is the boldest among them all. Her trills and sharp purr-greetings are like none I’ve heard. With her tiny body, she shoves aside four large dogs to ask for my affection. Can I refuse it?

When I consider life without Pippa, my eyes filled with tears. To think of losing her purrs and trills–of course Kris was up all night. Today was the procedure that would decide if Pippa had a chance.

“We have to be very quiet!” I told my boy. “Kris and Pippa have a very important appointment with the doctor today!”

His little cowboy boots clacked down the sidewalk ahead of my words. “O.K.!” sailed back over his shoulder, his sounds twirling through the gold-streaked hair that streamed behind him.

My shoes were half on when I heard Kris’s voice. Across my plane, four swift cats shot train-style through the cat door. Kris’s bewildered face hovered as I caught up, my own agenda shimmering under the cat-terror we’d just caused.

Undaunted, I burst into song. “Happy Birthday to YOU! Happy Birthday to YOU!” as Kris threw up weak hands in nearly sincere defense. Embarrassed and uncomfortable, there was still the warm under glow of love.

Back in high-school, Kris had that characteristic angry swagger that cut a path wherever she went. Her eyes took bites to the right and to the left as she burned a path out of our alien world. She and I left it only to step into the great abyss. As she cautiously dodged our exuberant love, cool smoke drifted above old, quiet fires. Worlds continued to merge.

While Kris was taking Pippa to the vet, we retrieved our ingredients from the fridge. We got a mixing bowl, and ducked back into the tiny house. The kid could hardly contain his excitement. Duty lists? Give me that spoon! Now! Please! The desire to experience things directly was irrepressible. He was an octopus with only one arm on the goal.  It looked a lot like misbehavior; but from another angle, it is enthusiasm unbound.

Batter in the pot, we went for the bowl. As we mixed, I promised he could lick the bowl. Having never done it, he thought I meant he should put his whole head in it. As I scraped batter into the pot he cried out to me, “Please, let me lick it now! Let me put my head in the bowl!” It was only cake; but he was nearly weeping.

People always comment about how intense my emotions are. To some people, I probably seem “dramatic”. Kris is very similar to me in that way. Consider, for a moment, that we are not being dramatic? What would that look like, feel like?

I consider that when I view my boy. What must these new things feel like, at three and three-quarters? Hey, sometimes I could scream for a new sensation. Why not my son?

Finally, I was able to put the bowl on his lap. I explained that licking the bowl meant cleaning it out with fingers and spoons, not actual tongues. Needing no further instruction, he got to his work. Finally free, he smeared two hands in to the elbow. “Look at this!” he cried, shoving both of his sticky hands in my direction. My “Whoa, Babe!” met his enthusiasm as I found release in his absolute joy.

My plan was to serve the cake right in the crock pot, hopefully warm, with melted chocolate chips on top. The chocolate chips were still at the store. Leaving the cake to cook we went for chocolate chips, party hats and uncurling party blowers. I could only imagine Kris being mortified; but somehow, it felt right. It was jubilant love; and we wanted to share it.

Kris’s friend, Sarah, and her mom, Joyce, treated us all to pizza to celebrate the day. I followed Kris there, as she needed her own vehicle to pick up Pippa on the way home. On the way there, I noticed her bumper sticker for the first time.

When we got to the pizza shop, J descended on the nearby box of toys. The adults took a table, and settled in. My new family. I touched my toe to the water. I was ready to show them what I was made of.

The cake held its presence behind me. I felt like a kid, our surprise hidden in the car: when could I bring it out?? Using the threat of rain as an excuse, I grabbed J and dashed into the parking lot.

We sneaked the cake past the front door and lit the candles on a back table. My babe had his party hat perched neatly on top of his shimmering head, a monkey on a bright green background leading the way. From the rear came my denuding call: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

I watched Kris’s shoulders hit the deck, and then to writhe in the complicated dance of love and embarrassment. We sat next to each other, our hugs and small touches knitting further the bond of our sisterhood.

It started back then. It started with shoulders, with sharp looks that somehow made me an exception. It grew on the trellis of two fierce hands joined for survival over the miles, and it traveled on ideas built out of mutual faith.

Today, Kris sat in front of her plate. On it, the cake we had made in our tiny house sat waiting. Before she even tasted it, she took a deep breath. Pausing in natural prayer, and I watched her heart give thanks.

Now, I give thanks to you. I love you, Kris.