Frost(ing) at Midnight: To Amy on Miss E’s Birthday

The froster performs her secret ministry…

Adapted from Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight”

A very happy Miss E. with her 5th birfday cake, mfd. by Amy

A very happy Miss E. with her 5th birfday cake, mfd. by Amy

Since we’ve had kids, Amy has channeled some of her (vast) creative powers into making beautiful cakes to celebrate the girls’ birthdays (and our own). With her ability to craft amazingly representational images from her own delicious frosting (usually cream cheese, but sometimes just highfalutin’ sugar), Amy has made it possible for the girls to define a birthday theme (ponies, farm, mermaid, Robyn, etc.) that extends not only to decorations around the house but also to a lovingly crafted scene right there on the cake. Today, Miss E’s fifth birthday, was perhaps the most challenging cake of all, with three human figures (what would Shakespeare say of the pearlescent candies that were their eyes?), two unicorns, and a fully-rendered mountain range glittering with green sprinkle trees. Miss E was completely delighted, which made up entirely for the probably eight hours that Amy devoted to laying out the design on a piece of paper, cutting through the paper with a knife to “trace” the design on the base layer of frosting, and then working her frosting magic between 7-10AM this morning. This latter creative deadline burst, I should mention, happened during the first morning of the Bahá’i fast, about which more later, but it does sort of underscore the dedication.

A selection of Amy's birthday cakes through the years, with this year's equestrian princess in the center

A selection of Amy’s birthday cakes through the years, with this year’s equestrian princess in the center

As Amy collapsed just now after a long day of totally pushing it (between the cake making and the gymnastics birthday party were swim lessons for all three girls–and guess which fasting parent was in the girls’ locker room), we reflected on what it means that she has committed herself so intensely to expressing her artistry and love through cakes. Thinking in particular about how she feels when these things get eaten, Amy said it was a little bit like Native American sand painting, in terms of the form’s embrace of its own transient nature. We also referenced outsider art in terms of the inherently rough nature of attempting representationality in frosting. While birthday parties are soon forgotten, I do think the girls remember the love and effort that Amy has put into these cakes, particularly as they get older and are able to help with the design. Though their strength still lies in nipping little pieces of the cake before the party. When Miss E. had her first birthday, Amy made a bunny cake (left side of the montage, third down) and just before we drove to the party, we caught Miss M. nabbing the frosting off a whole edge of the cake. Amy always saves frosting for last-minute patching, but even at four, Miss M. knew the gravity of her crime and accepted not getting any of the cake at the party.

Five years with our amazing Miss E.

Five years with our amazing Miss E.

Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight” is not just my goofball reference to Amy staying up to all hours to get these cakes frosted. The poem is a reflection on the poet’s own past and his hopes for his baby, sleeping next to him, wordlessly filling the interstices of every moment of his thoughts:

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!

As a midnight blogger, this is a nice way after bedtime to consider calmly the wonderful filling-up of one’s life that children enact every day. Our five years with Miss E. have been a true blessing, as she has always been a vibrant force of love, independence and hilarity in our lives and those of “the sisters,” as she describes her elders. Just a recent example of how she is wise and funny beyond her years…Amy was struggling valiantly to get the three slowpokes out the door on time one morning, and told Miss M. what she would do if M. continued to make like a conscientious objector to tooth brushing. Miss E. said, “Not very Bahá’i” in a sort of tsk-tsk way. Way to internalize the teachings, girl! We love you and are proud of you.


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