We hosted Dylan's 11th birthday party today. 11. I know it's cliche, but how did THAT happen?? Every year is significant of course in its own way, but somehow 11 seems to me a true coming of age. 11 is the year I recall beginning to have a personal life, of having thoughts and feelings and relationships that I did not share with my parents. I developed friendships with people my mother didn't know. I did things on my own.
Dylan leads a more sheltered life than I did (and I led a pretty sheltered life, at least until then). My parents split up pretty much the week I turned 11. My mom packed the car with everything that could possibly fit into a Pinto station wagon - my physical space relegated to roughly 2 small dimensions - we waved good-bye to south Florida and made our way to a small town in New Mexico where she had lived before and had friends.
So, 11 for me meant a new town, a new school, new friends, and, as I was to discover, new enemies. It meant my mom went from full-time stay-at-home parent to full-time working mother. It meant going from a 3-bedroom house with a pool in the suburbs to a 2-bedroom slump block duplex just before the paved road petered out to dust.
So, some of my growing up at this age was environmental and necessary - but 11 is still 11 and it's the beginning of a new era. Gone are the party games of birthday parties past. I needn't have fretted about how to fill the time on this rainy day.
Our good friends, Dylan's god-parents, made the trip, as always, from Seattle to help and witness, with the youngest of our crowd, their son little 3-year old Pi. We devoured bison burgers and turkey dogs, the adults choking on the spicy lentil stew I brewed up and opting to stick around rather than drop off - always nice. Then, since all kids had been asked to arrive with any Harry Potter paraphenalia they had lying around, a spontaneous bout of wizardry broke out about the place, and the grown-ups just laid low so as not to be expelliarmussed or what have you.
Then it was ice cream pie time (party tip: if you make and serve ice cream pie, whatever else happens at your kid's party will be forgotten and the whole shebang will be deemed a rousing success. There will be 10 minutes of reverential silence as the pie is devoutly devoured. This is our third year on the ice cream pie - recipe below). A little more fun and games and then presents. 2:30 came and went and most folks were still here. How special is it when kids and their parents all genuinely enjoy each other?
We are so grateful for the wonderful, kind, beautiful, unique and self-possessed kids we are honored to have in our life and count as Dylan's friends. These are exhilarating and trying times coming up. Lots of decisions - decisions we now make as a threesome, instead of twosome - loom. Good, gentle, smart, and funny friends and their amazing parents will be the glue that holds adolescence together.
Happy birthday Dylan. You're the best.
Ecstasy for Kids of All Ages: Fine Cooking's Ice Cream Pie
This is easier and faster than any cake you could come up with, including store-bought mixes. Bake the "crust" in the AM and forget about it until your party guests are chowing, then bring out the ice cream and it's ready in less than 5 minutes. You seriously have never seen anything disappear so fast.
Ask your child to pick his or her 3 favorite ice cream flavors. You'll need at least 2 pints of the very favorite, 1 each of the other two.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
You'll need 1 bag of Newman's Own chocolate wafers and about 6-7 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter and a bottle of squeezable chocolate sauce.
Pour the chocolate wafers into a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs (you can also put them in a big ziplock and roll a rolling pin over it). Pour the crumbs into a bowl and drizzle the melted butter over them and work the two together until you have have no dry crumbs left.
Butter a glass pie pan, pour the buttered crumbs in, and work the crumbs into a crust all around, pressing them.
Bake for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack until people are eating.
Take the ice creams out about 10 minutes before you're ready to serve, unless they're softer already. You want them scoopable. Take the favorite flavor and smear it about 1/2 inch thick over the crust as your foundation. Then scoop that flavor and the other two in alternating scoops across the whole plane of the pie. When all the space is filled, squeeze chocolate sauce in a pretty design of your choice across the whole thing. Serve right away!
Don't forget to save a bite or two for yourself.