By Linda Porter Carlyle
MacKenzie Isabelle Evans stuck her finger in the chocolate frosting and licked it.
“Stop that!” Mom said.
“I had to taste it!” Mac protested. “You can’t put frosting on a cake until you’re sure it tastes right!”
Mom looked at her. Her eyes twinkled. “How true,” she said. “You might accidentally have used salt instead of sugar or something horrible like that.” Mom picked a bit of frosting off the edge of the bowl. “Tastes perfect to me,” she said. “Go ahead and spread it on the cake.”
“Salt instead of sugar? Bleh!” Mac stuck out her tongue at the very thought. “That would be disgusting!” She spooned frosting onto the flat cake and pushed it around with a knife. She made a pattern of circles. “Do you like this design?” she asked. “That’s one of the good things about frosting. You can make it swirly, or smooth, or any way you want it.”
“It’s very artistic,” Mom said, looking over her shoulder.
“I can hardly wait to put on the words!” Mac exclaimed. “I never got to write on a cake before. I wish I knew how to make those fancy frosting flowers,” she went on, scraping the bowl. “Wouldn’t that be fun? Maybe I can draw a manger on the cake—besides writing, ‘Happy Birthday Jesus,’ I mean. No, that would probably be too hard.” She stopped talking in order to lick the spoon clean.
Mom glanced at the clock. “We need to get the table set,” she said. “Everybody will be here in about an hour. Do you want me look for some birthday candles to put on the cake?”
Mac hesitated. “No,” she said slowly. “I don’t think you put candles on a cake unless a baby is one year old. And Jesus is just born. I mean, He’s really thousands of years old! And He was alive even before He got born! Wouldn’t a cake with a million candles look awesome?”
“But how would you ever light a million candles?” Mom asked. “The first ones would be burned down long before the last ones ever got lighted.”
“I’ve got it!” Mac shrieked.
Mom jumped. “Don’t do that!” she exclaimed. “You scared me!”
“I’m sorry!” Mac said. “But I’ve got the perfect idea!” She danced up and down. “We can put sparklers on the cake! We have some left over from the Fourth of July, remember? We saved them for my birthday party. But we can use them now. We can put sparklers on Jesus’ birthday cake! That would be much better than candles!”
Mom thought for a minute. “I guess we could try it,” she said.
Promptly at 6:00, the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it!” Mac hollered, dashing through the house. She flung the door open.
Pastor Chuck and Mrs. Pastor Chuck stood on the porch.
“Please come in,” Mac said politely. “May I take your coats?”
“What a great hostess!” Mrs. Pastor Chuck exclaimed.
“Mom made me practice what to say this afternoon,” Mac whispered. She hung the coats on the brass coat stand near the door. “Wait until you see the cake!” Mac said. “I made it. Well, Mom helped me. But I frosted it all by myself! And I wrote on it, ‘Happy Birthday Jesus.’ And we put sparklers on it! Real sparklers!”
“Wow!” Pastor Chuck said. “It sounds like a party to remember.”
Mac heard the back door open. She heard Dad’s happy “hello’s.” She heard Joseph’s and G.M.’s voices too. “Everybody’s here. Come sit down,” she said.
When everyone was seated around the big dining room table, Mac squirmed happily in her chair. Being with some of her very favorite people, plus having some of her very favorite food—spaghetti and chocolate cake—made her very excited. Too bad supper couldn’t be like this every night!
During the meal, Dad asked each person to tell his or her favorite part of the Christmas story. And then it was time for dessert.
Mac proudly carried her creation to the table. The “Happy Birthday Jesus” she had written looked great in spite of a slightly tipsy H. And the tall sparklers with pink and yellow tissue paper tips leaned at elegant angles.
Mom stood up and struck a match to light the sparklers. They instantly crackled and sparkled festively, and bits of burning tissue paper fell onto the tablecloth. The tablecloth began to smoke everywhere they landed.
Mom screamed faintly. “How do we put them out?”
Dad grabbed one sparkling sparkler out of the cake and thrust it up-side-down into his glass of ice water. The sparkler went out all right. And the glass shattered.
Mac screamed—not so faintly.
Mrs. Pastor Chuck and G.M. patted the smoking places of the table cloth with their napkins.
Dad picked up the cake and rushed through the kitchen and on outside.
The smoke detector began its piercing blare.
Joseph covered his ears.
Mac burst into tears.
Finally the chaos was over. Everybody gathered in the living room to sip hot, spicy apple cider. Pastor Chuck looked at Mac over the rim of his mug. He laughed. “Well, as I said when I arrived—it’s a party to remember!”
Dad just shook his head.
Mac sniffed. It was a party to remember all right. But not the way she had intended! “I know you’re going to tell everybody what happened,” she said. “You’ll probably tell the whole church!” she added darkly. “But the sparklers and the fire wasn’t the most important part. The birthday party for Jesus was!”
Pastor Chuck leaned over and tugged one of Mac’s red curls. “Just like your memory verse!” he said. “‘When they had seen it, they spread the word.’”
“‘When they had seen Him, they spread the word!’” Mac said.
Pastor Chuck grew serious. “You’re absolutely right,” he said. “Jesus is the whole reason for this season. And we’re honored that you invited us to a birthday party for Him. It’s a great way to make sure our minds are focused on the right thing.”
There was a moment of quiet in the room. “Next year we won’t put sparklers on the cake,” Mac said softly. “I thought it was a great idea.”
“We could do sparklers outside though!” Joseph put in loyally. He felt bad that Mac felt bad.
“Yeah!” Mac exclaimed, lighting up. “That would be perfect!”