"What’s for dessert?”
It’s not a question only a 5-year-old would ask, although at that age it can be especially important.
Ted gave Sydney an option.
“Finish your hamburger and you can have dessert.”
She fingered the half eaten burger. She had already downed several long carrot sticks and a couple of handfuls of chips. She squirmed in the porch seat, the remainder of the burger sat on a paper plate on her knees. The bun was open and the patty was layered with cheese and topped with ketchup.
Ted didn’t answer the question about dessert.
She wasn’t going to get to weigh her options, or so it looked.
Sydney and her twin sister Alex spotted the Saran-wrapped glass tray when Carol brought it to the table. They didn’t ask questions, even though the brown contents got a few curious looks.
“Well, just eat the meat,” Ted said, backing off a bit.
Sydney lifted the meat off the bun slowly. She was delaying, waiting for an answer.
“I finished my hotdog!” Alex announced triumphantly. Now she wanted to know what was for dessert. Sydney’s ally was now at her side.
Ted went back to his last precondition for dessert.
“It’s just a couple of bites,” he insisted.
Maybe he hadn’t seen the tray of uncut brownies. Maybe he regretted making dessert a condition and felt Sydney should do as she was told, period.
“It’s mushroom cake,” I announced.
“Yew!” Sydney responded, scrunching her face into the worst possible look. “Yuk!” said Alex, with an even worse face.
“You don’t know how good it is until you’ve tried it,” I said.
“I’m not having any,” Sydney declared.
Now there was no incentive at all to finish the burger. Alex was of the same mind. This was a Mother’s Day cookout that became a welcome back Ted party. As a 40th birthday adventure, he and two of his windsurfing friends had been planning a trip to Cape Hatteras for months. They found a beach house online, spent hours packing their gear into a trailer Ted customized for boards, spars, sails and all the stuff that goes with it. As the day neared, they studied weather forecasts, hoping the cape would live up to its windy reputation.
Ted, the stubble of a gray-flecked beard ringing his face, had returned the night before. He was ready to show us snippets from the hours of video, many made with head cams while they were riding the waves and others, as it turned out, while playing ping pong.
Back at our house, the twins wore T-shirts from the trip, each bearing a comic spouting whale and a phrase about saving the environment. In their shirts and shorts, the girls were cute.
Mushroom cake, however, troubled them.
“And it comes with pickle ice cream,” Ted announced.
“No way!” Alex said.
Ted didn’t retreat. “It really goes with mushroom cake.”
Sydney wasn’t paying attention. A tiny spot of ketchup had landed on the spout of her whale. She pointed to it in distress and asked Carol whether it would come out.
“Mom can spray it when you get home—don’t worry,” she comforted.
Sydney didn’t look convinced. Now Alex was checking her green shirt. To her alarm, there were a couple of spots.
Carol assured her it would all come out in the wash. Alex wanted guarantees; she was concerned.
Sydney put down the meat paddy and pulled at her shirt to check for any additional spots. In shock, she realized she was holding the shirt with greasy hands. Now there were lots of spots.
Ted used the incident to emphasize the importance of being careful. Sydney wasn’t in the mood for a lesson. She looked at the shirt in horror and then dissolved into tears.
It was time to bring mushroom cake to the rescue. Carol cut it into squares and brought out the ice cream.
“It’s vanilla!” Alex declared with sudden interest, and Sydney brightened.
Carol delivered plates of “mushroom cake” and ice cream to the twins.
Sydney started with a few crumbs. She was now smiling.
“It’s a brownie,” she shouted.
I mocked disappointment, “I thought this was a special day and we would get mushroom cake.”
It was a special day. Ted gave Carol a big hug and a hanging plant for the porch. Carol got to be motherly as the twins pulled their T-shirts out from the waist and watched her spray every spot. And then she was mother again as we cleaned up.
It was just another Mother’s Day.