Lasting stories can’t just be licked away

Published 12:05am Friday, June 6, 2014

If I had to come up with a metaphor that aptly describes what parenting is like most days, spinning plates comes to mind.

A cat thrown into the mix makes the metaphor even more fitting.

Thursday morning had it all, including the cat, when I busily prepared for my son’s fifth birthday party.

Mornings in the Hillyer household are normally chaotic. Gibson is an early riser and doesn’t linger much when he wakes.

Getting him to eat breakfast, change clothes, make his bed and brush his teeth in between his imaginary sword fights and break-dance moves takes a lot of attention and energy.

Some mornings are better than others, but if my wife and I are not pushing him along, the odds of the family being ready to go to work and school on time are small — infinitesimal even.

Add in a birthday and that is a lot of plates to spin for any parent.

I am not sure how it started, but for the last five years, I have made my son’s birthday cake. I must have had one of the wild ideas I am prone to getting from time to time. Instead of shelling out $40 or more for a cake, I decided four years ago that I could do the job myself. The first cake turned out to be such a success, that I ended up with the annual cake making responsibility.

I don’t try to do anything fancy. I have seen some amazing cakes at some of the birthday parties to which Gibson is invited. Other bakers have performed birthday cake magic with gum paste and fondant icing. My cakes are simple — two round layers covered in a thick layer of sweet icing.

When I finally climbed into bed Wednesday evening, everything but icing the cake remained. The plan was to get up, mix a few ingredients and then assemble the cake.

Too bad it didn’t turn out so simple.

The number one rule in cooking should be always read the recipe first. Had I read the recipe for the chocolate sour cream frosting, I would have realized that the sour cream was to be at room temperature. In fact, the recipe specifically warned not to mix melted chocolate with cold sour cream.

In a moment of haste, I quickly dumped out the sour cream in a shallow pan and set it out on the porch to let the early morning heat warm it up as quickly as possible.

I then returned to a myriad of other things that were happening at the moment, including  answering a video-phone call from my mother in Detroit as my wife scurried around to pick up gift wrapping and trash strewn across the living room.

A lot of plates were spinning, but thankfully none of them were crashing.

That is until I opened the front door to find our cat Khaki hunched over the pan making a series of tongue trails in the sour cream.

The last five years have been a wild ride indeed. There are times when I miss the pre-parenting days that seemed simpler and more peaceful. There is a longing for those days when a lot of plates are crashing.

Still, amid the chaos and cacophony, I can’t imagine anything more joyful than being a father.

My son continues to teach me how to change and adapt. He teaches me that there are times to stop and break dance.

There may be frustration along the way, but there has been a lot of fun, too.

Besides, another carton of sour cream is just down the street. The frustration is temporary, but the stories last forever.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at