Skunk Karma: Part Three
I try to stick with my friends, even when they do what seems ridiculous. I figure it’s a deposit in the Friendship Bank, since I’ll have my share of ridiculous.
A friend decided to go into psychotherapy. This was good-ish. Therapy was a great idea. We all have our weaknesses, glitches, and places we’d like to deep-six, never to be seen by others. In my completely non-judgmental and supportive opinion, Louise would benefit enormously by growing up.
(Remember the stuff we might want to deep six? That’s mine, right there.)
I try to look supportive. I am dismayed as she describes her pending Regression Therapy. I’m thinking therapists should get to choose our therapy…an extreme concept, but perhaps a slightly more useful one? I know I’m blind as a bat to my own glaring flaws.
Exiting the womb was enough for me the first time around. The idea of stuffing myself back in as an adult (sorry mom) so I could come out again, only in a nicer, more incense and chanting, Goddess-y sort of way, was not appealing. But hey, I’m being a judgmental jerk, so I may as well own that, and own, while I’m at it, that I don’t know everything.
(I knew you’d be shocked by that one.)
I hoped my Not-Onboard-ness didn’t show. I’d heard about this form of therapy, and knew parts of it were a group process. I prayed she would not ask me to be there for the labor and birth. I was SO going to be busy that day.
Sooner or later I would have to cave and show up. I needed to pick a therapeutic event I could tolerate without unconscious eye-rolling. I did not want to risk devastating her delicate, reborn psyche.
The phone rings. “I’m eight now!”, Louise says in an excited, happy voice, sounding just like an 8-year-old. “That’s wonderful!”, I say, with genuine sincerity. I can do eight. I repeat internally: do not judge, do not judge. She’s happy. What is my problem?
“I’m sorry, what?” I say, to cover up the fact that I (the higher evolved being) am totally self-absorbed.
“I’m having a birthday party! I’ll be ten by next Saturday! Will you come?”, she asks.
I can do a couple of hours of ten. Hey. Cake!
“Of course!”, I say. “I don’t have anything on Saturday.”
“Oh good. I was starting to worry you thought this was stupid”, Louise says, hitting my nail of shame on the head.
“It’s a camping party! Saturday, Lake Park, 9 a.m. Go-home time is Sunday at 4 o’clock. Bring presents, lots of presents! You know, age-specific ones.”
A two-day, overnight birthday party? I need damage control.
“I’ll be there”, I say, forgetting to ask the number of the campsite. “Is Saturday afternoon okay, or is that too late?”
“Oh it’s fine”, she squeals. “This is going to be the best birthday EV-er.”
A trained professional should definitely choose our therapy. I think a lot of problems could be avoided. Like gift shopping. And making paper mache placenta.
Saturday afternoon, I’m toting my overflowing Toys R Us bag, and the party is in full swing. I’m amazed at the number of people. The party takes up two group campsites. Three picnic tables are pushed together, end to end. I edge through revelers spinning a blindfolded woman in front of a large poster of a tail-less donkey. Somewhere from the right, comes a shout of “GO FISH!”. Louise jumps up from a circle of people sitting cross-legged on the ground, and runs to hug me, yelling, “More presents! YAY!!”
She takes the bag, and asks me if I want to play Duck, Duck, Goose. I think I feel an emergency root canal coming on, but I’m going to try to tough it out. “You can put your stuff away first”, she calls, weaving her way behind a bunch of guys playing darts. “You’re in Apache Tent.”
Oh, the irony. I’m the only Indian. As I heft my gear from the car, I note it could be worse: I could in the Generals Tent, presumably with Generals Custer (livable, he lost) and Sheridan (unlivable, direct quote: “The only good indian is a dead indian.”)
Is that my tooth aching? Just a little bit? No? Fine. I dump my Mohawk pillow & sleeping bag in Apache Tent.
As I step out, the sea of people ebbs in another direction, and I see…
The. Dessert. Tables.
Two picnic tables groaning with candy, cookies, cupcakes, fudge, donuts, brownies, ice cream, pies, lollipops…with a gigantic white sheet cake gleaming snow-like in the middle: a Fresco of butter cream frosting. There’s so much sugar, it’s hard to tell where the M&M lake stops and the donut towers begin. It’s Willy Wonka on steroids.
I immediately feel the need to go into regression therapy. All my earlier intolerant judgement is clearly jealousy and immaturity. How could I have been so blind? I need to sign up right away. I need help. I…I….
Is that pie…lemon meringue? NO! Is that…Cotton Candy?
This is the best party EVer.
Duck Duck Goose! Musical Chairs! Pin The Tail On the Donkey! A Pinata! Darts! Badminton! Croquet! Dodge ball!
In nothing flat I’m racing around on a major sugar high, shouting GOOSE at the top of my lungs.
We’re all regressed. The park ranger stops by and asks us to calm down. We look sullenly at our shoes. Louise manages to find someone old enough to build a fire in the grill: hotdogs for dinner. While most of the sugar is ravaged, mixed together, spilled and scattered, the cake is perfectly intact. We are good little children. You don’t cut someone else’s birthday cake. You just whine about it.
“I wish we didn’t have to eat hotdogs first” says the man next to me, grumpily. “I’ve been waiting all day for the cake.” He adjusts his red cowboy hat.
“Shhhh!” hisses a woman in a pink plastic tiara. “Don’t be rude!” She stamps her foot.
I’d forgotten how much the elastic band itches on pointed party hats. I fuss with mine. It’s gold with white streamers poofing out the top. They fly around my face and feel super neato when I shake my head really fast. A man in a full feathered plains Indian headdress, is sound asleep on a picnic bench, his head on a teddy bear, a candy cane in one hand. Someone threw a Superman cape over him.
A small part of me, probably the part whose blood sugar dropped suddenly, thinks: I’m dreaming, right? This isn’t really happening.
Hotdogs are served, and those of us who didn’t pass out from sugar overload start to sober up, feeling the first twinges of what will be a massive, diabetic-sized hangover. Louise lights a camping lantern, and we play Crazy 8’s in the dark.
After an hour of Crazy 8’s, the newly sobered half-adults grow surly, and sotto voice comments start to go around.
Geeze, when is she gonna cut the cake!?
Do you think she forgot about it?
If she doesn’t cut it soon, I’m gonna.
Hey, not fair! Put the knife down, it’s not your cake!
Before a fist fight can break out, Louise announces she is ready to cut the cake: would someone please put ten candles on it and light them? I’m sitting next to the candle box. I open the pack, and shake out candles. Someone moves the camping lantern so I can find the cake in the dark. The light hits the gleaming white frosting surface, and we all freeze.
A skunk is standing dead center on the cake. His face is buried in frosting. You can see the tracks leading up behind him, where he hiked into the white wilderness of buttercream. No wandering. Straight up the side, straight to the middle, where he just stopped and smashed his face into the cake. (I think we all identified.)
Sensing a change, he looks up, questioningly. There is a frosting high water mark near his ears.
What? You got some sorta problem? You gonna argue with me? Yah. I don’t think so. Nice cake. Thanks. Wait till the Mrs. sees this! Hey, Joanie. Getta load of this!
He looks over his shoulder, and we see a smaller skunk face poking through the middle of a donut. It looks like she is trying it on. She wiggles out of the donut, sniffs the air near the cake, and picks up an M&M, biting it delicately. She drops the other half, and leans over the apple pie tin, peering in at the carnage.
We all look at each other. None of us are ten anymore. We’re a group of slightly queasy adults, watching married skunks from Jersey perform a hostile take over. The sugar table is the food-equivalent of Filene’s basement for skunks. There’s a lot to sort through.
I see a smaller skunk head peering out of a nearby trash can. Mom looks back over her shoulder, and baby skunk scampers out of the trash and up onto the cake table, joining his sister. They start playing in the frosting like it’s snow: making balls, shoving each other, pouncing and leaping, arguing over who gets the best spot by Dad. The drop and roll and wrestle until they are covered in white. Then one of them licks it’s paw, and it’s all over. They dive into eating the cake with gusto.
Dad is staring us all down. Don’t mess with my kids. If anyone moves an inch, he raises his tail threateningly.
We were stuck, Freeze-Tag like, for the next hour, while the skunk family celebrated Louise’s 10th birthday.
I’m telling you. Skunk Karma. It’s a real thing.