Maylin's teacher asked me last week if I wanted to have them celebrate Maylin's birthday before or after the Toussaint vacation (still don't know what Toussaint is, but this vacation is a week and a half long starting the last week of October), and if I wanted to bring a cake or candy...but it's optional. I was planning on bringing a cake and said I would bring it on Monday of this week.
Sunday evening came along, I put Maylin to bed at 9 pm, and then realized I hadn't baked anything yet! I wanted to bake chocolate cake but was overcome with fear when I looked in my fridge and cupboard and saw just enough butter and chocolate for two 8-inch one-layer cakes. Was two cakes enough for 25 children and a teacher? It would have to do. Should I make one rectangular cake instead? I opted for the round cakes because I thought slices would look bigger than little squares even if they were actually the same mass.
The butter and chocolate were enough for the cakes, but instead of doubling one recipe, I was forced to add one recipe to another (otherwise, I would have been short on either the butter or the chocolate). I added the ingredients of the two recipes together and then added extra leavening. Somehow, it worked, and they turned out beautifully.
So earlier that day, I was supposed to buy more chocolate and butter. I was supposed to buy drinks, too, but it was too late -- all the grocery stores were closed (except just now I'm realizing that there is a little epicerie owned by an Arab that opens until 11 pm but charges double the going rate of most products -- kicking myself). Shoot, they wouldn't be able to use the cute Dora the Explorer cups I found at Auchan, the hypermarche (super-supermarket) at La Defense. At least, they could use the cute Dora the Explorer napkins. To make up for the possibility of cake shortage, I tossed into the feed bag two large packages of Chinese rice crackers (salty and sweet) and a portion of store-bought speculoos cookies (kind of like gingersnaps).
Monday morning came along and Maylin started crying when I woke her up for school. She didn't want to go to school -- she didn't want to celebrate her birthday because people would look at her. Have you noticed? She's super-shy. Somehow I got her dressed and took her to school. Actually, John carried her and I carried the food. I presumed I would be able to enter the school with Maylin to bring up the goodies, but it turns out I could only leave it with the gardienne to take in. (Makes me a little suspicious when we're only allowed to go up to their classrooms once a month.)
When I came to pick Maylin up after school, everything turned out better than expected (except for her still not eating in the cantine, as reported by the gardienne, and for her not eating hardly any birthday cake, as reported by her teacher). Maylin reported that everybody ate cake and liked it, that five kids didn't want to eat the Chinese rice crackers, and that the kids asked their teacher if there were any drinks (the teacher said Maylin's mommy forgot -- I felt bad, but Maylin said the moms never brought drinks when there were other birthdays, so then I didn't feel quite so bad). She also told me that she was asked to take a piece of cake to the other teacher down the hall on a Dora napkin and that she wasn't shy. She spoke to her! Great improvement.
Where did all this extra cake come from? 26 pieces? Incroyable! It almost felt like that New Testament parable about Jesus turning five loaves and two fish into enough food to feed four thousand people. It really was a miracle.
On Tuesday, Maylin was called into the principal's office to get her birthday present -- a tiny plastic pony (mimicking "My Little Pony") with mini hairbrush. It was cute and such a nice gesture. The principal, or "directrice," even said that Maylin spoke to her for the first time as she held my daughter's face lovingly. Aww, they do care. There's a strange dichotomy of personal/impersonal at school. The teachers and principal seem very nurturing with the children, and yet they tend to keep the parents at a distance. Parents are not allowed into the classroom area except for designated days once a month -- I think I've even been yelled at when I unknowingly broke the rule last year while trying to bring Maylin's "doudou" to her classroom (she had left her favorite stuffed animal at home and cried so hard she broke my heart).