Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were sailboats on brownie cupcake seas. Nearby, small polar-bear bags enveloped chocolate chip cookies – two, the number of cubs to which a mother polar bear usually gives birth. Above, Sriracha cheddar angels flew near gluten-free cheddar bats, blurring the line between visions of darkness and light. Heavy and earth-bound, pound cakes, crusty and golden, kept company with a moist yellow cake four layers high frosted with deep chocolate, covered in swirls pulled down from Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
The combination bake sale and lemonade stand to raise money for our local park was a delicious scene, crafted with care by all sorts of local parents. Children, including mine, crowded nearby, helping to attract customers with their sheer exuberant presence – or their sign waving and instrument banging/shaking/clacking. WIth faces painted, they helped the crowd attract a crowd. They meandered down to the as-of-yet-unimproved playground, swinging and running and playing. They were semi-autonomous children in a small town, fulfilling their right to loose supervision. They were happy.
We were happy, too, but it wasn’t the best part of yesterday – even when we found out that we’d raised over $1500.
After the sale was over, we headed down the mountain for a birthday party at a local gym – and in this case, I mean a gymnastics gym, one filled with joy-inducing equipment like a long trampoline, like a runway for kangaroos, and bars, which, yes, might be good for a monkey, and a ball pit, which would get any self-respecting dog drooling. There was bouncing and climbing and crawling and pizza eating, all with friends, and present opening (we gave the gift of Press Here by Herve Tullet, a favorite at our house), and when it was all done, we were sent on our way with goodie bags.
This, too, was a good part of our day, but it wasn’t the best part, either.
The best part waited until we were home, our little family of four, with goodie bags opened and scattered: long balloons, good for making animals (the house specialty: a snake, no twisting required), with a hand-held pump, and two glow bracelets apiece.
The balloons were a little bit of magic, like children, growing quickly before our eyes.
But the bracelets held even more magic.
I pulled up Girlpool’s album Before the World Was Big, and we turned off the lights, the better to enjoy the glow of the bracelets. Boy put a bracelet on an uninflated balloon, and they took it from there. He twirled the bracelet, and it glowed, a shining light in the darkness. Girl tried it with two, and with Girlpool’s spare guitar playing and singing, sometimes in harmony and sometimes in a single line, the web was spun. It was magic, and I was caught. The lights spun and twirled, and, with only their imaginations to limit them, Boy and Girl continued to spin their ephemeral web of light. Small circles, large circles, pairs of bracelets or one, just alone, attached to a balloon, rope-like – I could have watched until my eyes grew heavy or until Boy and Girl fell into a heap, joyful and spent.
As it was, the album ended, the spell was broken, and Daddy turned on a light in the kitchen, the better for eating snacks. Regular life always hovers at the edges of the perfect moments, waiting to intrude, often with great impatience.
But it was there. Rather, they were there: the perfect moments, the perfect children, the perfect light, the perfect darkness, the perfect family. Maybe it doesn’t matter if they’re ever perfect again; maybe it’s enough that it could happen, and that it did.