A zit, a coldsore and a bout of hayfever walk into a bar… And that’s the end of the joke, because let’s face it, a zit, a coldsore and a bout of hayfever in the same place at the same time really isn’t funny. Which is exactly how I felt when I woke up last Tuesday morning, four days before my daughter’s communion.
The hayfever has been going on for a while now but the rest was new. I could feel faint telltale tinglings and knew things could still go either way, as I explained when I confided in the girls on the school run.
“What’s a coleslaw?” asked the six-year-old.
“What’s a zit?” asked the eight-year-old. “Oh wait, I see what you mean – OH MY GOD MUM – IS THAT GOING TO BE THERE ON MY COMMUNION DAY?”
Great, I felt so much better for sharing.
I still needed to have a moan when my husband arrived home that night.
“Imagine,” I said. “What are the chances, right before the communion.”
“Indeed,” he said. “Who would have expected it. Speaking of the communion… I have good news and bad news.”
This sounded mostly not good.
“So the good news is…” (Woah, hang on, who starts with the good news??) “The cupcakes we ordered will be ready on Friday.”
To me this sounded more like perfectly normal news – if you book something, it gets done – it’s nice, but not usually classified as good news.
“And the bad news is, the guy who was going to do the food isn’t going to do it anymore.”
Suddenly I could see how the cupcakes were good news.
We booked Pete (or Pete the Traitor Caterer as he’s now known about these parts) last October. And yes, I know you’re wondering why we wouldn’t just do our own food, and yes, if I was any class of a hostess I would, but I get very stressed when feeding any more than about four people, so we decided to book Pete. I wanted to be able to focus on my daughter for the day, and I’m very aware of my own limitations.
So Pete was going to cook the food, bring plates and cutlery, bake bread in our oven, and serve the food on the day. I had called him two weeks earlier to chat through the details, and he seemed like a very nice man. He said we didn’t need to finalise numbers or menus until a couple of days beforehand.
On Tuesday, my husband called him to do just that. And a few minutes later, Pete called him back to say that actually, we weren’t worth his while. Our numbers were too small – he wouldn’t be doing the food. Goodbye.
When my husband told me all this, much swearing followed (me), and there might have been frustrated tears (still me), but then he passed on the next bit of good news. My brother-in-law, a fantastic cook, and clearly also a masochist, had offered to step in. At first I said no, it was too much to ask, but when we realised nobody else was able to do it at such short notice, and my brother-in-law insisted he genuinely wanted to give it a go, we very gratefully said yes.
The next hurdle was keeping it from the communion girl, so we told her that her aunt and uncle were collecting the food from the caterer and would be “putting it together” on the day. That seemed acceptable.
And anyway, if she started asking too many questions, we’d just hand her a cupcake:
Or show her the beautiful communion cake we’d hidden in the shed for two nights:
Or draw her attention to the sweet table again:
And actually, all of that worked. The sweet table was a huge and wonderful surprise in the morning – she had no idea it was there, and watching her face light up when she saw it was priceless. She did know there was a cake coming, but didn’t realise it was going to look like a stack of books, including two by her favourite authors, and one called “Mandy Moonshure” – the character she invented for her own book.
She loved the scavenger hunt we did with her cousins (find out what your auntie’s middle name is/ find a yellow leaf/ get the phone number from the alarm system/ what cheese is made backwards) and she loved the prizes we had for everyone for the team effort.
She loved doing her prayer in the church and seeing all her friends and having some time with just us in the pew – is there anything that means more to a child than an hour with both parents’ full attention?
And that was at the core of how the day went on – without worrying about food, I was free to focus my attention on my communion girl, and make the day special for her. As she took off her veil that night, and wiped away the last cake crumbs from the front of her dress, she told me with a big smile that it had been a perfect day.
And the food? The food was far, far better than anything Pete the Traitor Caterer would have done – my brother-in-law is wasted in his current non-cooking career.
Plus there’s something lovely about family jumping in to save the day when things are falling apart, and we’ll have a good story to tell the communion girl in years to come. A spanner in the works (no offence Pete) and a day saved by cake and kindness.