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Saturday, July 20, 2024


Joyride 5.10.2006

By Rick Racela

When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a green giraffe for Halloween. Who knows why? Maybe I was testing my mother to find out if she was indeed Super Mom. My mother spent the entire month of October like a knight on a medieval quest, crisscrossing the Delaware Valley looking for fabric and patterns. Although she would never admit to it, this was more drudgery than triumph for her. She took no particular joy in wielding a needle and thread.
On Halloween night, I stood in my living room adorned in a plush menagerie of fabric and art store trinkets that did indeed resemble a 5-year-old’s vision of the majestic safari creature. I looked up at my mother with as much reverence as my still developing soul could muster. From then on, I saw my mom as a kind of craft deity.
That scene was recently reincarnated with my wife, Kris, playing the role of Super Mom.
Our 5-year-old son, Kameron, has become the world’s foremost pint-sized expert on the solar system. He can name the planets forward and backward, group them by color or size, almost any classification you can conjure up.
As a result, Kris donned her cape and set out on a holiday quest of her own. Her mission was to throw the ultimate planet birthday party for Kameron and his 3-year-old brother Josh.
Kris scoured the Internet for planet ideas. She paged through the boys’ solar system books.
Kris asked every mom she knew for creative ideas, and she too combed every craft store in the region for anything that said “space.”  She purchased special pans so she could make nine different sized cakes, one for each planet. Kris cleared all the icing from local supermarket shelves, unearthing colors that I didn’t even know existed.
For days, she baked, carefully plotting the dimensions of the Mercury cake so that it was just the right size smaller than the Jupiter cake. She created a radiant yellow sun cake, using sugar cones as the rays surrounding our favorite star.
The boys examined each new creation like white-gloved military inspectors. But despite their best efforts at inquisition, each heavenly body ultimately received their diminutive stamp of approval. Or so it seemed.
At the last minute, Josh decided he wanted his cake to be a fire truck. The boys were born one day apart so their birthdays are celebrated together.
There’s one theme for the party, but each boy gets a cake of his choosing. So in the midst of converting our solar system into edible form, Super Mom had another assignment that would require divine powers.
She gathered Oreo cookies to serve as little tires and long-thin pretzels to be the ladders.  It looked like she was preparing items for a Woman’s Day magazine cover shoot.  You know those cake crafts that appears to be bathed in an angelic light. As you page through the magazine at the checkout counter, you hear the people behind you gasping as they say, “No one can make that!” 
The day of the birthday party, our house was overrun with more than a dozen tiny food critics that all acted like they were at the opening night of a new trendy restaurant. They carefully examined each planet, commenting on the tint of the blueness of Neptune’s icing.
The partygoers checked the fire engine cake to make sure it contained all the parts necessary to respond to a real call.  Apparently it did since one kid said, “Thatâs cool!” 
As some of my sonsâ more demonstrative friends continued to express their approval for the festivities, Kameron pointed to the neatly arranged row of nine planet cakes and loudly said, “My mom made that.”  Josh added, “And we helped.”  As my boys smiled at their mother, I thought about the green giraffe and I knew what they were feeling. 
Keith Forrest is an assistant professor of communication at Atlantic Cape Community College.  His late mother Libby Demp Forrest Moore wrote the Joyride column for this newspaper for 20 years.

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