I can’t even begin to tell you how relieved I felt that Caleb was now as excited about his future as I have been. The past few days, he’s talked about nothing else. Even the art projects he brought home from school were pictures of house ideas – each one more outlandish than the last. He seemed in no hurry to grow up, that’s for sure…. but at least I no longer had to worry about his reaction to the contract. Having it all out in the open really took a load off for me.
This morning, I woke up early with Jared, and we quietly had breakfast before the boys woke up. Caleb’s big day was coming, and I wanted to be prepared as possible. We discussed ideas, going back and forth, trying to figure out something that would be a memory that Caleb could always keep with him.
Perhaps it was because we were already eating, or maybe it was just because I’d just been thinking about it, but the restaurant popped into my head. It was perfect. I even arranged for care for Ryder, so he wouldn’t be in the way on Caleb’s big day. Ryder, the lucky tyke that he was, was scheduled for a playdate with a small friend from a local town’s daycare. We didn’t exactly have a daycare here in town, and since Jared and I both “worked” at home, we didn’t need daycare services often… but it was nice to know it was there for just these occasions.
For the rest of the week, Jared and I managed to be as inconspicuous as possible. As far as I could tell, Caleb had no idea what we had planned for his upcoming birthday. It was a big one, too.. which made it all the more important to make it memorable. We managed to act as if it were just another week. As usual, Ryder commanded the lion’s share of Jared and I’s attention. Between feedings and flash cards and blocks and the toys and the.. well, you get the idea.
Finally, the day arrived. I impatiently filled the day with gardening and teaching Ryder his thinking skills flashcards. The whole day seemed to just drag by. When Caleb finally got home from school, Ryder was already gone on his playdate (and hopefully behaving!)
As off-handedly as I could, I asked Caleb to put away his school stuff, that we had an errand to run. He complied, and Jared, Caleb and I piled into the van. I had already talked to the driver, and we were going to take a roundabout way to get to the restaurant instead of going straight there. Finally, we passed the turn-off that led towards the next town (the closest shopping areas to where we lived, and where we usually ran any errands). I saw Caleb’s eyes suddenly sharpen.
“Hey, Mom? Why are we going this way?” he asked, suddenly curious.
He knows! Or, at least suspects! My brain yelled at me. As calmly as I could, I answered, “You’ll see.” I saw Jared hiding a little smile and I silently willed him to keep it under wraps as much as possible.
After what seemed like forever, the car pulled into the restaurant. I noticed that they had updated the sign to read “Traveler’s Bar And Grille” in honor of our family’s rebuilding the town, and I wondered at the amount of people that were actually here. Considering our house was the only house in town… there seemed to be a lot of people here. I wondered if Jared had said something to someone about us coming here today.
“Mom??” Caleb exclaimed.
“Come, on, son.” I said, “Happy Birthday!”
Caleb bounded out of the van, and I saw the driver grinning at my son’s excitement. We hardly ever came to the restaurant, so being here was a big deal. I climbed out, and approached the host station.
“Travelers, party of 3.” I told the host, and he smiled, pulling out menus. “No need for those. Just bring us a big Pepperoni Pizza and some Creme Sodas.”
Caleb’s eyes widened as I mentioned his favorites, and he barely seemed to be able to contain himself in his excitement.
“Right this way.” the man said, and the three of us followed him. I noticed a lot of the restaurant’s patrons eyeing us curiously.
We sat at our table, and a grey-haired man and woman approached us.
“Hello, Travelers! We wanted to be a part of this special day, too, and congratulate Caleb. He’s grown so much lately. High School starts tomorrow, right, Caleb?” the man said.
Caleb answered before I could even think of a reply. “Yes! I’m so excited to meet my new teachers!” he said.
“I’m sure they’re all excited to meet such an important young man.” said the woman. “Your family’s heroism for this town has not gone unnoticed.”
“I’m sorry.. I don’t recognize the two of you.” I broke in.. wondering why these people seemed to be trying to join in our private celebration.
“Oh, dear. In our excitement to finally meet Caleb, we must have forgotten to introduce ourselves,” said the man, “We’re from the town government who holds your contract. We heard you and your family were coming to celebrate Caleb’s birthday, and we couldn’t resist coming to meet you ourselves.”
“Excuse me…” the waitress said. “Just the pizza and the creme sodas for ya’ll??”
“Oh, please sign us up for a big confetti birthday cake, too.” I said, smiling widely at Caleb.
“Really, Mom? A big cake.. just for us?!” he crowed, practically bouncing out of his chair in his excitement.
“Of course!” I replied, “It is an important celebration in honor of you today, after all.”
The conversation continued, until our food finally arrived (I had noticed a big crash nearby as what seemed to be the food meant for us fell on the floor and the kitchen staff had to start all over. I felt bad for them, but maybe that waitress should have been more careful!) I tried to drop hints that we had planned this to be a private celebration, but the man and the woman seemed oblivious, and I didn’t really want to be rude.. so they stayed.
“Hold on, can I please take a photo of you guys, with my phone, just to show I actually got to meet you?!” the woman said.
“I’ll duck out of the way… ” said the man, and, strangely, he proceeded to do just that.
“Thanks so much! It was great to finally meet such a famous family!” the woman said, and left with a pointed look at her companion. Apparently he either didn’t see it or he ignored it.. because right by us is where he stayed, talking up a storm about how lucky the town was that I had moved in and raised my family right here, building the first house back into this poor town. Caleb seemed to drink the attention right up, talking back animatedly, discussing how he was planning to build the best house they’d ever seen. They were little-kid ideas, but his heart was certainly in the right place. The man treated Caleb like a hero, and Caleb clearly noticed.
As the pizza and the Creme Sodas disappeared, I noticed the waitresses gathering with a big blue cake. Smiling, I nodded at them, and they brought the cake over. Confetti and streamers and horn-blowing accompanied what seemed like the entire restaurant’s cheers. We all sang Happy Birthday, and Caleb got ready to blow out the candles.
“Make a wish, honey!” I reminded him, and he paused just long enough to do just that. Internally, I wondered what he’d wished for. It was bad luck to tell, of course, but I still wished I knew. Knowing his most private of dreams would certainly be helpful… that way I could do whatever I could to help it happen. I assume most parents think the same way about their kids.
And then .. the moment was over. Caleb was a teenager. The whole restaurant cheered, and Caleb hurried to pull the extinguished candles out of the cake. The waitress handed us a big knife to cut up the cake, and people slowly returned to their own meals. All but that man. I wondered if he planned to stay the entire time we were here.
Since Caleb was “big” now, I let him cut the cake when he asked to, chuckling to myself at the huge piece he cut for himself.
“Are you sure you’re hungry enough for all that?” I asked him, trying not to burst out laughing.
“Of course I am, Mom!” Caleb answered. “Watch this!”
… And he proceeded to shovel the whole thing into his mouth, barely chewing each bite before the next one disappeared. Indeed, most of the cake went the way of this piece, and we had only a small fraction of the cake leftover to take home.
“I’ll save the rest for Ryder.” Caleb said, and finished off his fourth creme soda. “Ready to go, Mom? I’m sure Ryder is missing us!”
I smiled at the care Caleb showed for his younger brother, and Jared and I finished off our (much smaller) pieces of cake and prepared to leave.
“Sure thing, honey. The van should still be waiting for us, we can go pick him up now.”
We said our goodbyes to the strange government man, and to several other restaurant patrons who wanted to have their picture taken with Caleb, and we headed home into the approaching dusk.
Once home, Caleb put the cake in the fridge and went to take his bedtime bath… then, exhausted from a long day, he tucked himself into bed.
Even Ryder seemed ready for bed, too, and before I even had a chance to read him his customary story, he was sound asleep. I tucked both boys in and switched off the lights.
“So, what do you think, Jared? Was that a success, or what?” I asked as my husband and I got ready for bed.
“I think we can call it, that, yes.” he said, laughing. “I wonder what that man was thinking. He certainly had a lot to say, didn’t he??”
“That he did. I’m glad we’re planning to stay home for Ryder’s birthday in a few days. That was a lot of extra attention we got!”
“Agreed.” Jared replied, and we curled up into bed.
I slowly drifted off to sleep, wondering again what Caleb might have wished for so seriously before blowing out his candles…. and trying not to worry about Ryder growing up too soon, trying to be just like his big brother. You know, parent things. The stuff we all wonder as our children grow. … Maybe I’d bake Ryder a pink cake, since that was his favorite color, it seemed… Another day complete.. and a milestone reached for Caleb. High School ahead….
My thoughts droned on.. until finally sleep took me.
…. To be continued.
Author’s Note: I have no idea who those sims were who decided to join the Traveler’s celebration, but I felt the need to weave what seemed like paparazzi into the story. That man just never did go away, although most of the rest of the people they attracted did. I took my writing cues from the screenshots I had, and just wrote what came to mind. And – yes, I’m random-rolling every trait for this story.. and Caleb really did roll Glutton to go with his Outgoing from when he rolled his child trait. He also rolled the Party Animal aspiration.. which of course isn’t going to be worked on because he’s unplayable until he grows up, but it gives him the “Gregarious” trait.