I noticed an older girl had taken up with Zoe, my granddaughter, at the playground, trailing Zoe’s erratic energy blasts as she shot from one feature to another in an outwardly random pattern of her own inner direction. What was in it for a girl of 7 or so to track the action of a 4-year old? Then I came across them sprawled out on the bridge made of netting and thought, huh, what’s going on here, as I overheard Zoe confront the older kid, saying “Hey girly girl, why did you trick me?”
Whatever underhanded business had gone down to warrant this shakedown was alarming, but what most stood out to me was the straightforward calling out of the situation, deftly putting girly girl in her place. To call a spade a spade is not a common thing for the general public, or at least it doesn’t seem so given what we let others do to us.
I texted this impressivly smart exchange to Hunter, son to me and father to Zoe, later that night. He was amused and said that while Zoe hadn’t said anything about that, she had mentioned having to tell the big girl, “A promise must be kept.” (No explanation and none asked for, by the way, which I know because I asked. I admire the no-question cleanness of this father/daughter transfer of information. Talk about cool, a cool I am constitutionally incapable of. It’s always the big messy questions with me. I just can’t get over them. But back to the story.)
A promise must be kept…yet another oracle-like bit of Zoe wisdomry* that Gary and I can’t get over. A promise must be kept.
As usual following such a Zoeism, there are endless instances throughout the following days that now call out for “A promise must be kept.” In the case of 25 pounds of cake, for instance. After decades of being drawn to the idea of the tres leches cake — a Mexican cake made with three milks (why are 3 milks so intriguing? I don’t even find one milk intriguing, so why, following the logic of simple math, should multiplying milk by 3 produce anything but a big zero of intrigue, though I have to say one was sweetened and condensed so maybe this was the difference maker) — literally, after decades of tres leches fascination (I’m sorry; I dig long sentences), I made it.
By the time I finished saturating a 9 x 13 sheet cake with gallons of liquid, it weighed 25 pounds easy. I put it in the fridge for the overnight magic that promised to take it from a sodden mess to a custardy delight. The following night, the 20-year anticipated moment of delight finally arrived. Dishing it up I didn’t see any indication of custard, but I am one of those who drinks the koolaid and believes it all so as I dipped into a dense slab of bizarrely course crumbs employing sponge technology so as to hang onto an ungodly amount of fluid, I still fully expected custard magic with an unreasonable amount of positivity despite the fact that I could clearly wring a cup of milk out of my piece alone. Finally, in disbelief, I was left no other alternative but to note that there was nothing remotely custard-like about those big soggy crumbs. In fact, it was a defiance of reason how stubbornly this cake was holding onto any level of structure whatsoever. Some things just have integrity, irritatingly so, even.
The next morning I called out to Gary from the red chair in the living room where I eat breakfast that the cake was the most disgusting, revolting thing I’d ever made or ever eaten (which, to the last sodden crumb, I stubbornly, resolutely and absolutely did do). And that I sincerely hoped I wasn’t going to eat another piece that night though it was entirely possible.
There was a lengthy pause, then Gary called back, “A promise must be kept.”
Point taken. I walked out into the kitchen and dumped 25 pounds of cake into the trash. This, at least, is a promise I can keep.
And I started this blog. Like Zoe says, a promise must be kept. And this is a big one.
Here’s to Be cool.
*Being an actual oracle is a lot to load on a kid so I carefully make a point of saying, when I say such things, that many of Zoe’s babyhood comments have an oracle-like quality, with her merely functioning as a sort of designated postal worker from beyond, delivering a Bed Bath and Beyond-style 100% free wisdom coupon. In time she will get all her coupons delivered and thus will end her job as a messenger of wisdom, so no pressure future Zoe. Job well done.
The stories in this blog are excerpts from my memoir, The Organization Project. While they are true to me and reflect how I see, I acknowledge there are multiple truths, including my own which change over time, even as the events themselves remain the same. What I make of an event 5 years out may not be what I make of it 10 years out.