jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

U2 Can Have Your Cake and Eat It… Too

In six degrees of separation how would we get from U2 to a Doc McStuffins cake?

Doc McStuffins cake, inspired by the Doc McStuffins cartoon, for which China Anne McClain sings the theme song, and China McClain starred in Grown-Ups with Adam Sadler, who also starred in Click, which ends with the song Ultraviolet (Light My Way) by Paul Hewson who is Bono from U2. Boom.

Or I’d do it like this.

At midnight on the eve of my five-year-old’s Doc McStuffins birthday party I was looking up the Youtube recipe for marshmallow fondant. I’d already resorted to Betty Crocker box mix for both the gluten-free chocolate cake and gluten-full yellow cake. By the way, I used to bake things from scratch. Like, for a salary.

But it was midnight. Fondant, people.

3 am- Doc McStuffins fell off the cake  July 2015

3 am- Doc McStuffins fell off the cake
July 2015

And by 3 am I was staggering to bed, having left my best efforts wrapped in Saran Wrap on the dining room table. Doc McStuffins kept falling off the cake. I could totally empathize.

Not four hours later my youngest stood in my bedroom at an unheard-of 6:45 am vibrating with pleasure. The vibration woke me up.

“I love my cake,” she whispered.
“Mama needs sleep, baby,” I replied.

And the day went on like this, me staggering around to throw together the party favor bags (who wants to stick band-aids on bags, you guys?!), setting up in the helter swelter heat of the day. Pink tablecloths. Pink napkins. A blanket on the ground covered in supplies for make your own no-sew stuffies and doctor gear for making a diagnosis on you favorite teddy bear.

The recovery room  Note the striped no-sew stuffy  July 2015

The recovery room
Note the striped no-sew stuffy
July 2015

The kids poured in. It never rained. The blessed uber-babysitter twisted and stuffed approximately 20 no-sew stuffies. Kids dressed up like princesses or doctors or played on the swing set, gobbled fruit cups and then sang a sweet, marshmallow-fondant-crusted happy birthday.

Five years old  July 2015

Five years old
July 2015

Before I knew it, the parents had composted the electric pink cake scraps, thrown out the pink tablecloths, folded up the folding chairs, lugged the tables to the garage.

“You have a concert to go to!” they insisted.

And off we went, my husband and I, to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary, finally, with oysters and Bono.

We ate quickly.
We arrived early.
My husband befriended everyone surrounding the spot on the floor we’d claimed in the “General Admission” area, and before I knew it, that was me gripping the railing near the stage.

Bono and me  July 2015

Bono and me
July 2015

That was the Edge so close to me I could see what kind of shoes he kept changing into. I could see who’d aged well (the Edge). I could see who sweats the most (Bono). I swear to you, I made eye contact with the bassist, Adam Clayton. When the drummer, Larry Mullen, walked down the runway stage with a single drum strapped to his front, beating out a rhythm that drove right into the chest of every person at TD Garden in downtown Boston, I could see the sinews on his arms, the veins and hairs even.

And I couldn’t help but think how I’d first bought Joshua Tree in New Haven on Broadway, at the little CD place on the edge of Yale’s campus. I was 18 and trying to decide how I felt about being alone. About being me. About who I was, or who I’d ever become.

I thought about boys that afternoon in New Haven in 1990, whoever it was I had a crush on that week. I though about missing home and loving being away from home. I smelled the gritty, sweaty smell of city streets, old beer and sidewalk piss mixed with pizza. That moment felt almost like being grown up. Buying my second ever CD (Bruce Springsteen was of course my first) with my own money in a city to bring back to my dorm room and pop into my Sony boom box with tape deck and CD player: this was (almost) adulthood.

What would I have thought about this 44-year-old woman, gripping her iPhone, wearing high-heeled sandals and dark, clunky glasses and a shit-eating grin making love eyes at the Edge (sorry, Bono)?

Near the end of the concert Bono saw this young girl standing just ten feet away from us. She had a small hand-lettered sign, ‘Best 13th birthday ever!’

He waved a security guard over and had her plunked on the stage. He sang, “Happy birthday to you, Sevita, birthday wishes from U2,” to the tune of It’s a Beautiful Day, don’t let it slip away. And we joined in with a sort of repeated chant, “Happy birthday to you, Sevita.”

It brought tears to my eyes, this skittish, coltish beauty of a girl, lost up on stage, leaning into Bono’s chest, surrounded by 17,500 grown-ups. She looked over at her parents, unsure. Bono knelt before her and kissed her hand. I was captivated. “Happy birthday to you, Sevita.”

My husband leaned into my ear, “Doc McStuffins!”

Yes, our newly minted five-year-old. I waved tears from my eyes and he laughed and kissed me hard. Could we picture her at thirteen? At eighteen? At forty-four, with her soulmate, wrapped in the throbbing pulsing sound of being this alive, this much in the very center of it, a little drunk on wine and oysters with a tinge of pink fondant afterglow?

Soul mates and a funky stage set  July 2015

Soul mates and a funky stage set
July 2015

This is how I would get from U2 to Doc McStuffins cake.

U2, Joshua Tree, a teenager lost in New Haven trying to decide who she will become, a thirteen-year-old’s sweet awkward birthday, 13 years married and our daughter’s own birthday, our beautiful daughter, a Doc McStuffins cake.

I have climbed the highest mountains

I have run through fields

Only to be with you

Only to be with you

It’s never an easy connection. None of it is.

We are here, and then in a wink of an eye, in a handful of steps, in twenty-four hours or years, we are someplace entirely different. We are this, and then we are that. It’s a mystery how it all plays out, surely.

But of this you can be sure: U2 can have your Doc McStuffins cake and eat it… too.

18 comments on “U2 Can Have Your Cake and Eat It… Too

  1. Amy Reese
    July 24, 2015

    Love this, Jen. OMG. And this, “At forty-four, with her soulmate, wrapped in the throbbing pulsing sound of being this alive, this much in the very center of it, a little drunk on wine and oysters with a tinge of pink fondant afterglow?”

    It just says it all. It’s so heartfelt and mesmerizing to read. Great stuff! Happy Birthday to your daughter and Happy Anniversary to you and your husband. You celebrated in style. I need to learn your tricks. 🙂 And, what a cake. It looks like something out of a posh bakery. I want a cake like that. Great post! xoxo

    • jgroeber
      July 26, 2015

      Aw, shucks!
      The secret really is the marshmallow fondant I found on Youtube. That and a whole bunch of pink gel food dye. Plus an MFA. The MFA might help, although it was in painting, not Doc McStuffins cakes.
      Always such a pleasure to see you, busy Mama!

  2. Sammy D.
    July 24, 2015

    Life is lovely love-filled cake for eating, savoring, sharing. Life is a river – slow moving like mud; churning like Level 5 rapids – but in the end, it’s all connected by six degrees or less.

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      Yes, exactly! What a beautiful comment; lovely poetry. Thank you.

  3. Linda Friday
    July 24, 2015

    I am so happy to have found you (just over a week ago). I love the way you write. And celebrate.

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      I am so happy to have been found by you, too. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I do so hope you come back and visit again soon.

  4. Eli Pacheco
    July 24, 2015

    You bring us there, Jen. I might not ever be close enough to see Edge sweat, but I’ve been there. Not only that, but the exhaustion brought on by fondant (I know that feeling!), the journey through six degrees, and that moment in the dizzying drunkenness of life when we can pause for a nanosecond and recognize the moment.

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      That comment is pure poetry, Eli. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. (And who can resist the Edge sweating? No one, that’s who.)

  5. kellylmckenzie
    July 24, 2015

    Yes. To all of this. I was right there with you from the first second you explained – oh so carefully and cleverly – those meandering yet pertinent six degrees …
    Having just thoroughly enjoyed a rousing live two hours of nonstop John C. Mellencamp last Saturday night, this post meant oh, so much to me. And the concept of staying up to 03:00 working on the most important of cakes. Brought me right back to the second baking of the sea monster cake (at 1:00 AM) and my dire hope that this time, the cake would stay in one piece …

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      Ah, a little ditty ’bout Jack and Diane, two Canadian kids, growing up… well, you know how it goes. He’d be great to see!
      And I have to think that every mom has had that 3 am moment. Although I’m pretty sure I’m the only one foolish enough to do it every single birthday. Procrastination!
      Always love to see you here.

  6. kristimaloney
    July 29, 2015

    Well, I am truly impressed with it all! The creation of your Doc Mcstuffins cake down to your photos at a U2 concert! On the other end of the spectrum, Hannaford did a lovely job on my son’s Goat Simulator Cake. I did see U2 way back when at the Worcester Centrum. Remember when it was called that? 🙂 Great post – enjoyed reading it.

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      What’s a Goat Simulator? I’m googling it after this comment!
      Thank goodness for grocery stores (and store bought cake mix!) I think U2 is one of those bands who is equally amazing 20 years ago as today.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. (Now I’m off to look up Goat Simulators…)

  7. Deborah Weber
    July 29, 2015

    Oh what a fabulous post!

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for the kind words.

  8. Dawn Quyle Landau
    July 31, 2015

    There are just so many reasons I love you…. and now that I’ve met you in person, I know it’s “a real thing.” This is just one more delicious post of yours. Each one touches me. xox

    BTW: another thing we share. I took my youngest to see U2 in Vancouver, during this tour, and we were right up near the stage too… you have captured every delicious moment here! And man, I’m in love with Cabot. 😉

    • jgroeber
      July 31, 2015

      Ha! Yes to U2, to delectable Cabot (she’s like Brie, that one), and to our sisterhood of bloggesses. As always, thank you for your support and lovin’ comments. Thinking of you this very minute and wondering if a world away you’ve become a grandma. Wishing good things for you and Principessa and Baby.

      • Dawn Quyle Landau
        August 2, 2015

        A secret: I’m at the hospital now, and labor has begun. I think it will be a long night… but my girl is a trouper! Send me an email with details about the yummies. xox

  9. Pingback: The Summer of Enough | jen groeber: mama art

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