A party without a cake is just a meeting.
— Julia Child
She took — and still takes — great pleasure in making things look beautiful. I have memories of branches, piles of flowers and fruit spray-painted gold transformed into works of art. For special occasions she used place cards, plates, glassware and napkins as if she were composing a painting. At friends’ birthday parties, presents wrapped by her were the easiest to spot – they were the ones with the perfect bows and the loveliest matching paper.
At my own birthday parties she went all out. My birthday often falls near Easter, and this provided lots of room for thematic accouterments. There was the cake shaped like a bunny (I still have the instructions she tore from a magazine explaining how to do it). And another party, my friends and I decorated Easter bonnets with millinery flowers and ribbon and lots of glue. That’s me at the head of the table at my 5th birthday party, wearing my newly adorned Easter bonnet.
In our house there was a spare bedroom that the previous owners had painted pink. The ‘Pink Room’ became my mother’s de facto workshop. This was where she kept her scissors and glue, gold spray paint, pink tissue paper, and miles of rickrack and grosgrain ribbon. And whenever access was granted to all of this, I could feel my brain switch on. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on that stuff.
It was in the Pink Room that I learned how to iron a sheet and expertly wrap a gift. It was there that I perfected my own bow-tying techniques.