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