Make a Wish and ...

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The cake was adorable - tiny and colorful and fun. Perfect for my little man's first birthday.

I envisioned Cooper's inaugural taste of sugar as an experience of utter euphoria. He would dip those baby fingers into the icing, widen his sky blue eyes at first bite, look at Momma and Daddy with a mischievous grin, and then start smashing his teeny hands into his teeny cake to his giant heart's content.

This kid is almost inexplicably happy at all hours; I could only imagine this coming glee.

With balloons floating about, my husband dutifully slid a towel beneath the high chair, clipped on the large-sized tray and buckled in Cooper. I handed the video camera to my mom and the regular camera to my dad.

I lit the big, numeral-one-shaped candle. Cued the singing. Started walking toward my boy.

Cooper was confused but amused, and certainly intrigued by all the activity.

Suddenly, mid-song, my dad stopped singing.

"I'm not sure if I have this on right," he said, pulling the camera away from his eye to look at the settings.

"Dad," I half gasped, trying not to skip a beat in the song, still walking steadily toward my baby with his cake. "I'm sure it's fine."

"No," he said, "I'm not sure it's taking pictures."

The song volume softened.

"Dad," I replied, agitated. "It's"

"Will you look at it?" he interrupted.

I was right in front of Coop, and the song (as you know, it's not quite ballad-length) was nearly over. But while I wanted to finish it in peace, I also wanted a picture - at least one! - documenting the moment. So I turned my head toward my father, and suddenly - it was one of those things that happens as if in slow motion - sinnnnnggggggggge.

My curious little guy had grabbed the flame.

The silence before the scream is the worst part, isn't it?

Then: flurry of wailing, crocodile tears, Mom dropping the video camera, me trying to wedge Coop out of his chair, my husband turning the faucet as cold as it

could get.

Happy birthday to you!, right?

When things settled and tears stopped, we put him back in his chair to attack his cake. He stuck a finger gingerly into the icing, put it to his lips, and made a sour-puss face. Then, he just looked at this mass of baked batter and icing in front of him and stared. No smashing. No smiling. No nothing. He just wanted down.

In the end, Cooper most enjoyed running among the balloons scattered around the floor and playing in the cardboard box that his Step2 car came in. My husband most enjoyed the fact that he gets to tease me every time we see a flame of any sort. There was plenty of glee - and even more when we recall the tale, which is far funnier now than while it was happening.

The moral of the story?

Things don't usually go as planned. But those are the best memories anyway, aren't they?