The incident would not have happened were it not for our deep love of wedding cake.
Four of us served at a wedding reception: our oldest daughter who made her own wedding cake and tends to be a perfectionist; our youngest daughter who also made her own wedding cake and resents being bossed by her older sister; an artistic family friend who hovers over every food detail like a mother hen, and me, whose strength is being able to panic in a crisis.
The reception was in a beautiful old building with high ceilings, very tall windows, very tall doors and in the process of being restored to its former glory.
The food and the cake were in a room at the back of the building accessible by an exterior entrance. Being that the building hadn’t quite made it all the way back to glory, the exterior door did not yet have a handle. But it was functional as long as you remembered not to close the door all the way.
Someone (who is not important, at least not when I tell the story) let the door close all the way. The four of us stood there dazed. You can’t have a wedding reception without food, let alone a wedding cake—a beautiful cake made by the bride herself. The marriage probably wouldn’t even be legal without cake.
The perfectionist noted that the very old and very tall door did not fit flush at the top. Her younger sister offered to boost her up so she might reach the top of the door. We’ll never know if it was a sincere offer or an opportunity to settle old scores. In any case, that’s when the screaming began.
“Aiiiieeeee!” howled the one whose backside, now six feet above ground, wobbled in her sister’s hands.
“You’re not the lightest thing!” her sister yelled.
The mother hen and I darted back and forth positioning ourselves to catch the one teetering in the air.
“Higher!” the airborne one cried. “I can’t reach it.”
“This is as high as I can go!” moaned the base.
A car drove by slowly. The driver rolled down his window, raised a cell phone and drove away.
“My arms are giving way!” screamed the base.
“Stretch!” I yelled. (It’s always easy to encourage those in the air when you’re the one on the ground.)
“I’m going for it,” cried the one in the air who had gained fame as a toddler for scaling door casings.
“NOOOOO! Don’t risk your life for food,” I screamed, my priorities clearly out of whack.
She kicked off her shoes, curled her toes and began inching her way up the brick.
“I can’t look” cried the mother hen, burying her head beneath her wing.
“Got it!” she shouted, pulling the door open, then doing an unsightly dismount nearly crushing her sister, the family friend and myself.
We got the food and the cake and it was the best lemon cake in the history of wedding cake.
Every wedding is special, but this was one we’ll never forget. I still have nightmares.