(Continued from #21)
I realized eventually that I was probably being unreasonable. Her pleading commands and exasperated gape said it clearly. Her staunch inflexibility modeled it perfectly. But we were nonetheless deep into a screaming fit before I got the point: You can’t resist this like vegetables, protest it like Sunday mornings, avoid it like hot ovens, or expel it like shit: Aging is unstoppable as sleeping.
So I drew a long, shuddering breath and turned my back upon the glories of innocent youth. I swallowed at dreaded gains in responsibility, sighed for lost ignorance, sobbed for lost incontinence, sniffled, snuffled, snorted, moaned, and resigned myself to turning four.
“What are you making?” I peeped through pouting lips, rubbing one eye with a fist.
“It’s your birthday cake,” my mother answered sweetly, her hand still working a spoon.
“My birthday cake?” I asked doubtfully.
Its uniform, brown color and long, low profile confused me. “It doesn’t look like a birthday cake,” I observed ruefully, remembering rounder forms, brighter colors, and lollipops.
“It’s a different kind of birthday cake,” Mother answered, bugging her eyes at me for effect: “This one has ice cream in it!”
“Ice cream?” I repeated, astonished.
“It’s an ice-cream cake!” she answered brightly.
“Ice-cream cake?” I whispered back as if in church.
“That’s right,” she nodded, smiling and bugging her eyes even further: “Chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream stuffed inside it!”
Chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream stuffed inside it? Dear God, could it be? The mere idea seemed miraculous. Ice-cream cake? Just to think it was delicious. Ice-cream cake? I could hardly wait to taste it. Ice-cream cake!
“But won’t it melt?” I pressed, doubting it again even as my concern for it mounted.
“Not anymore,” my mother said, and spirited the cake away to slam it in the freezer.
So it really is an ice-cream cake! I was stunned to blinking and grinning. Ice cream cake! I felt unsure about the look of it, but it sounded even tastier than my last birthday cake!
And then I knew that I’d been very, very naughty. Here my mother had been cracking golden eggs, pouring holy oil, sifting flour by the omer, and dividing chocolate loaves to make a supernatural treat just for me, and I’d been hindering her efforts the entire time. Good God, I’d been thwarting an ice-cream cake! I momentarily feared she might smash it the trash, and guilt overwhelmed me. But then, gripped suddenly by the awesome fact that I had just surpassed even the stunning achievement of turning three the year before, I decided not merely to resign myself to growing older but to embrace it, even to take responsibility for how I had been treating this poor woman who had given me not merely life, as I’d often heard, but even ice cream cake.
“Mom?” I dared.
“Yes, honey?” she answered sweetly.
“I was naughty, wasn’t I?”
“Yes,” she agreed, “you were.”
“Very naughty,” she repeated.
“Very, very naughty?”
She took a few moments before she answered. “You were naughty,” she finally said. “But that’s over now.”
I considered her reply but decided despite it that I had indeed been very, very naughty. I risked getting spanked when I was naughty, almost always got spanked when I was very naughty, and rarely even dared to be very, very naughty. Had my mother gone easy on me for my birthday? Had I been taking advantage of the situation? I realized that a breach of justice had occurred, and in the newfound wisdom of my several years, I decided to make it right.
“Why didn’t you spank me?” I asked.
My mother cocked her head at me, blinking.
“You should have spanked me.”
“I should have spanked you?” she repeated, amused.
It seemed silly, and I had mixed feelings about it, but that’s exactly what I was thinking. My parents, after all, had often told me that they spanked me to keep me safe and well-behaved and to make sure I grew up happy and healthy.
“You were supposed to spank me,” I mumbled.
No reply. Only the stunned look of an exhausted authority figure wondering if she really needed to worry prematurely over rapidly eroding powers of negotiation.
“You should spank me,” I asserted more confidently now.
“I should spank you?” she repeated somewhat loudly, suddenly squinting under raised eyebrows. “You want a spanking?”
I didn’t, of course. And yet I did. I wasn’t sure how to explain it.
“Don’t you love me?” I asked.
No answer. I felt a twinge of anxiety.
“Because you say you spank me when I’m naughty because you love me. But I was very, very naughty and you didn’t spank me. Don’t you love me? I think I need a spanking.”
My mother strode forward looking bewildered, somewhat disgusted, and only slightly amused, and she swatted me on the ass just once, gently. It didn’t even hurt. I wasn’t even frightened.
“Enough?” she demanded.
I frowned, disappointed, but thought I’d best agree. No telling what I’d get if I didn’t like this one! I nodded decisively, then vigorously. And as my mother walked silently into the kitchen shaking her head, I wisely turned my attention back to ice cream cake.