It’s 5:45 AM and Poppy is quietly standing by my bedside. She stares at me, like the girl from The Ring, until I wake to her presence. I get so startled my soul temporarily leaves my body. She tells me to hurry up and put a bra on— it’s her birthday.
For the next four hours, I have to explain how time works to a four year old. “Nani and Boppi and CJ aren’t coming over until three,” I tell her. “It’s only nine.”
“So they coming now?” She asks.
“Noooo,” I say. “See the clock? The little arm needs to be on the three.” She’s so offended by how time works, she refuses to eat her birthday pancakes. I’m so offended she won’t eat the breakfast I made, I eat them for her.
At around 11 AM, I wrap her gifts and emerge from the basement. “I can’t wait to open up my Unicorn Robot!” she squeals.
“Um, I’m sorry,” I turn to look at her. “Say that again?”
“A unicorn robot. I can’t wait to open it!”
“Baby, you don’t just want something and then it appears in a gift. You told Mommy what you wanted last week so you’ll get something like that, okay?”
“A unicorn robot!” she says, still cheerful, yet increasingly aggressive.
“What does she mean, a unicorn robot?” I ask Rob. “Is that a thing?”
“I have no idea, I think she’s making it up,” he says. “Leave it to our girls to ask for Artificial Intelligence robots for their birthday,”
I decide to rip off the Band-Aid. “It’s not a Unicorn Robot, Poppy,” I say. Her lip quivers. I eat the rest of her cold, leftover pancakes and do the dishes.
Around 3 AM the party starts. It’s small, just my parents and my nephew. Of course, the kids want to do the piñata first, even though I’m incredibly controlling and feel like the piñata should be the peace de la resistance towards the end, but whatever. The kids take turns and barely make a dent in what appears to be a piñata made of steel. So, I give it a try.
I put on the blind fold and Rob says, “Hold on, wait a minute, I need to adjust the rope.” Except I hear, “Go ahead and go,” and I swing as hard as I can. I hit Rob squarely in the balls. He drops the rope, the piñata falls, and he wobbles, briskly into the house, bellowing low growly noises. I don’t know exactly what he does in there, probably cries? Hard to say, I don’t go after him.
I feel real bad, though. Sadly, I also can’t stop laughing. Neither can my dad. “Was anybody filming that?” I ask.
“No! I wish!” Mom says.
“Ugh!” I shout. “What a wasted opportunity!”
Mom goes to check on him. Dad helps with the rope and I bust open the piñata. I have to break up several fights over cheap Party City favors they won’t give two craps about in an hour.
It’s around 5 now, time to open presents. Poppy still thinks she’s getting a Unicorn Robot. I try to temper her expectations. When she opens the Anna doll she had been asking for the entire time, Lucy says, “Oh no, Oh no, Oh no! I WANT AN ANNA DOLL!” Poppy is disappointed it’s not a unicorn robot, but satisfied her sister is jealous.
We enjoy cake, the kids play with their toys. Rob’s in the corner with a bag of peas on his coin purse. “Why haven’t you apologized yet?” he musters to say like a man on his death bed.
“Babe, I’m sorry you put your jewels in front of a blind folded woman with a stick, but how is that my fault?”
He turns away.
“Okay, fine I’m sorry! Can we move on?”
Eventually, we do. Our neighbors let us borrow a bounce house they keep folded up in their garage. The kids bounce and laugh and play. I drink a Topo Chico and watch on. I would’ve liked to have her preschool friends with us … but what’s the use of lamenting in 2020? It was just us this time, and it was more than enough.
“Want me to put these back in the freezer?” Rob asks, holding up the peas.
“Uh, no,” I tell him. “But bring me another Topo Chico.”
The truth is, those peas will never be the same again.
And the little hand just keepings spinning and spinning and spinning.