It’s Thursday morning, the morning of Lewis’s seventh birthday, and I’m in a bit of a celebratory lull because his party is scheduled for this coming Sunday, and although I have dug very very deep, by putting the Michael Jackson’s Thriller film clip on TV, and doing my best to remember the accompanying dance moves I learned as a seventeen year old zombie in my high school musical, Lewis seems only mildly impressed, and after dropping him and Archie at school, and Tyson at kinder, I’m left feeling we should have done something just a little bit more elaborate for his actual birthday, apart from saying Happy Birthday Lewis and giving him several clown-faced cuddles.
Before school pick-up I run to Northland Shopping Centre with Maki, rush to the local Ferguson Plarre bakery, and am excited to the point of hiccupping when I see two cakes side by side, one for a six year old’s birthday and one for a seven year old’s birthday.
‘Look Maki,’ I say, loud enough to draw the attention of the other cake-seeking patrons surrounding us. ‘A pre-made cake for a seven year old!’
Maki giggles simply because of the freaked-out joy in my tone but within the seconds it takes for us to be served he’s kicking into my ribs and clawing out my eyes in an attempt to leap through the glass barrier that separates him from several shelves of cake and cookie goodness.
‘We’ll take that seven year old’s birthday cake,’ I say, to the Ferguson Plarre lady, while beaming an I just stumbled across a bargain grin at the lady next to me.
‘It’s not a cake for seven year olds… that’s a seven inch birthday cake,’ the unsmiling Ferguson Plarre lady says, and then pointing at the sign over the one next to it, adds. ‘And this’s a six inch cake.’
‘Oh, seven inches…’ I say, as I attempt to push past a raging embarrassment by winking and smirking my way to a subtle inappropriateness, ‘I should have known…’
The cake is sitting in it’s expensive box in the cupboard as I’m serving up dinner after school and kinder pick-up but I’m torn because Lewis has been so totally and utterly rude and insulting and rebellious and intent on stirring controversy since we got home that I’m forced to serve up Reservoir Mum’s fish and vegies with this question, ‘Did you have the occasion, around seven or eight years ago, to spend any time with Kyle Sandilands?’
RM laughs and says. ‘If he keeps behaving like this he misses out on his cake, birthday or not.’
‘What cake?’ Lewis says.
‘I bought you a cake today,’ I say. ‘I was going to bring it out after dinner. But you’ve been so naughty I don’t think I can…’
After a flurry of words and bull-fight frustration that ends with a thirty second impersonation of a scratched record singing yes, no, yes, no, yes, no Lewis stands up and pushes over his chair and finally forces my usually very lenient hand.
‘Get to bed,’ I say to my seven year old on the celebratory day of his birth. ‘NOW!’
I’ve done the unthinkable and sent one of my babies to bed without puncturing his cake with a single candle, without singing happy birthday, without making the usual fuss and holler, and I’m wracked with worry.
I tiptoe into his bedroom at nine oclock, when he would normally be asleep, to find him twirling a lock of long hair and staring at the ceiling. When he sees me silhouetted by the light of the hall he jumps a little bit but, in typical Lewis style, he’s holding strong against the cake cancellation and not crying, or looking hurt, or showing any signs of backing down.
When I sit on the edge of his bed and look at him with the raised eyebrows and tilted head of a Dad miming, Well what have you got to say for yourself? he reveals his cake-seeking disappointment, cryptically, by saying, ‘I’m cancelling my party on Sunday.’
I take a deep breath and say, ‘There was nothing we could do Lewis. You were just too naughty. You made it impossible for us to give you cake.’
‘You have to ring everyone tomorrow to tell them my party is cancelled.’
‘We’re not cancelling you party, sweetheart,’ I say. ‘We already put down a deposit. And it’s not refundable.’
After a moment of allowing for him to just stare at me, stone-faced, while I force his hand by ignoring him as I play a mental game of ‘Lewis Look-a-likes’ by trying to think of as many drug-affected celebrities as I can who could match his expression perfectly – settling on a short list including Lindsay Lohan, David Hasslehoff and the recently deceased Corey Monteith – he finally breaks, whispering, ‘What did the cake look like?’
‘Seven inches of deliciousness,’ I say. ‘I took a long time to pick it out. I was very excited about showing it to you after dinner and singing happy birthday.’
‘I don’t love you,’ he says, after a heated pause.
‘Well, I love you,’ I say, immediately.
He looks over my shoulder, notices Archie coming into the room and says, ‘Archie doesn’t love me.’
I’m surprised Archie’s awake but accept it as fortuitous and instead of sending him straight back to bed say. ‘Archie, do you love Lewis?’
‘Sometimes,’ he shrugs.
‘Well why does he say he hopes I die and get hit by a train?’ Lewis says.
‘That’s only when you’re being an idiot,’ Archie says.
‘Hey you two!’ I say. ‘Brothers love each other all the time, okay? There’s no such thing as sometimes. Love doesn’t come out of a tap. You can’t just turn it on and off. You love someone or you don’t. You might get really angry with each other and let the anger get in the way, so you don’t feel the love as strongly, but it’s still there – the love – it’s always there, and you’ll feel it just as strongly once you calm down.’
Wow. That was a classic speech that will most likely stay with the boys for a long time, rolling through their developing consciousness as the soundtrack to their scatterbrained, hormone-defibrillatoring adolescents to make a real positive difference to the adults they’ll become.
I’m so self-awed that I’m imagining I’m on a stage surrounded by special affects and expensive props and national film crews as I twirk my brilliance to a huge crowd of Reservoir Dad fans until Lewis says, ‘Are the Zombies on Thriller real?’
‘Are the Zombies on Thriller real?’ I chuckle, turning to Archie, who also chuckles, but then stops suddenly and swallows, big-eyed, waiting for my answer.
‘Is that the reason you guys are still awake?’ I say, flabbergasted. ‘Because you’re spooked by some dancing Zombies from the 80s?’
As I take my turn to wait for an answer with my head swivelling between the two of them – Australian Open style – all the worry I felt at being the cake-denier is replaced by the worry I now feel for spooking my boys into a sleepless night and I remember, suddenly, RM’s Nanna pointing at me just before Archie was born, to say Now you’ll understand what worry means and, yes, I did scoff at her at the time, and roll my eyes as I smiled in youthful snootiness while I ate her delicious lamingtons but, well, here I am, eh? Right where she said I’d be.
‘Can Archie sleep in my room tonight?’ Lewis says.
‘Sure,’ I say, as I pull the spare mattress from under his bed. ‘Knock yourselves out. I’m going to go eat some cake.’