The cake sticks to the pan and breaks into pieces as it lands on the plate. This means a trifle is in order. Having never made one, I look online. Recipes abound. It is only four hours until the party starts, so I skip the recipes and wing it with what I can scrounge from the fridge.
I make chocolate sauce using light cream, vanilla, and cocoa powder before whipping the rest of the cream to a light froth. Chunks of cake line the bottom of a glass bowl. I dig around in the liquor cabinet, trying to choose from among the assortment of gilded, dusty bottles. Brandy? Grand Marnier? After a sniff of each, amaretto is an easy choice. I poke around in the kitchen for the proper tools. The turkey baster is the right size. The little sweet sponges of cake soak up the amber liqueur. A layer of chocolate sauce, a layer of whipped cream, another layer of cake. More amaretto. The scent makes my knees weak. The trifle heaps to the top of the bowl. Flecks of Ghirardelli chocolate dusts the top of the white cloud.
Into the fridge it goes.
The guests arrive with their bags and boxes. One man hollows out a giant bread boule and fills it with spinach dip. A woman has brought guacamole she made by hand, leaving the seed perched on top to keep it green. One guest shows up with three different bottles of vodka. Martinis are mixed in a chrome shaker. Ice rattles. Apple, raspberry, straight up and frosting the clear plastic cup. Chatter, a round of cards, hellos to the new member of the crowd. Stories pile on top of stories. Germany, Istanbul, Singapore. Holidays, movies, crazy exes.
A guest brings out a tart piled with eye-popping color. Glazed berries and kiwi glisten atop a golden crust. The trifle comes out of the fridge. Everyone oohs and aahs. The consensus is that a stuck cake is a blessing in disguise. We dig into the sweets. The cork pops on a red zinfandel then a pinot noir. We stand in a circle in the kitchen.
In the brief lull between laughter, the request a request to the group bubbles up: “Share an experience or accomplishment you aim to have in 2013.” The quiet deepens. People turn briefly inward to seek this truth. Strangers, acquaintances, friends. In this way, we introduce ourselves all over again.
To go on a week’s vacation to Italy. With a girl.
To finalize my divorce and move into my own apartment with my son.
A career change.
To let myself relax when I am relaxing.
To light a candle, put on music, and dance in the living room of my very first own home.
To box in my first real match.
To travel somewhere totally crazy for a stupid reason, like flying London for the weekend just to catch a concert.
To practice being content with what I already have.
We listen and nod, we hmmm in resonance. We decide we will keep tabs on each other and gather here again next December.
2013 will be a fine year. We hatch our big plans. When they break into pieces as they most assuredly will, we craft them into something new with whatever we have on hand. It is when we share that jumble of mess and redemption with friends that we notice how sweet it really is.