Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Birthday blast off minus this astronaut January 11, 2023

Isaac posing with his solar system birthday cake. Note the diagram in front of him, the design he and his mom created before making the actual cake. Besides space, Isaac loves art and math and geography and…he’s only four. (Photo credit: Amber, image edited)

EVEN UP UNTIL THE EVENING PRIOR, I held hope that I could join the mission. But it was not to be.

I missed my grandson Isaac’s space-themed fourth birthday party on Saturday because I was still sick with a nasty cold*. Oh, how I wanted to be there for the celebration. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I couldn’t in all good conscience expose anyone to this virus. So I hugged Randy goodbye, told him to have a good time and broke down crying.

Until that moment, I didn’t fully realize how much I had been anticipating this gathering of family to celebrate a little boy’s big day. Not any little boy. But my beloved grandson. To miss his party proved beyond disappointing.

I busied myself during party time by taking down Christmas decorations, reading, compiling a grocery list for Randy, basically doing whatever to distract myself from the celebration unfolding 35 minutes away.

Occasionally Randy and Isaac’s mom, our daughter Amber, would text a photo. The space-themed table décor. The space-themed gifts Isaac loved, including a fleece blanket from Eclectic Alliance in Faribault. And the space-themed birthday cake Amber created with the input of her son who is an expert in all things solar system. I’m not exaggerating.

Amber used this photo of her brother Caleb’s solar system birthday cake as a guide in creating Isaac’s cake. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2001)

It was the cake, though, that meant the most to me, even if I wasn’t there to eat it. Earlier in the week Amber requested a photo of her brother Caleb’s long ago solar system birthday cake. The bakery where she typically buys her kids’ cakes was temporarily closed, thus she would need to make Isaac’s cake.

This photo shows a page in an altered book created for me by my friend Kathleen (following my mom’s death a year ago). This page is dedicated to the birthday cakes mom made. That’s me at age two with my clown cake. That’s my mom, late in life, to the left. And to the right is the vintage cake design book that inspired Mom. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2022)

I was thrilled. I grew up with my mom making all of my birthday cakes, the designs often chosen from a “Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-Up Cake” booklet. I followed the tradition, crafting my three kids’ birthday cakes*. And now this was continuing into the third generation, albeit maybe for just one year. Time will tell.

Together, Amber and Isaac designed the solar system birthday cake—a round cake (the sun) ringed by cupcakes (the eight planets). Isaac had strong opinions about colors and lay-out. Uncle Caleb texted from Indiana that when he celebrated his seventh birthday with a solar system cake, there was one more planet. Pluto.

In the end, I got Mars, set aside especially for me per my request. Randy also brought home three slices of sun and left-over pizza. When I bit into Mars, I tasted the sweetness of the cake and the love that went into creating it. I may have missed the actual party, but my loving family texted messages (“The presents were a hit”) and photos during the party and then saved some cake for me. In the absence of presence, I was still included in the mission of a special little boy blasting off into another year of life. We have lift-off!

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

#

*I tested negative for COVID twice. Symptoms differed from COVID, but I wanted to be certain. Note, if you’re sick, please stay home, because you will make someone else (like me) ill.

*My two daughters on several occasions made their younger brother’s birthday cakes when they were all still living at home. There’s an eight-year age gap between youngest and oldest.

 

The happiest of birthdays for a 3-year-old (& his family) January 4, 2022

A special order rainbow birthday cake from Sweet Kneads by Farmington Bakery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

OH, TO BE THREE AGAIN. To see the world through a preschooler’s eyes. To view the world with unbridled excitement. To find wonder and excitement…in a rainbow birthday cake.

This past Saturday, I watched as my grandson Isaac focused on his beautiful rainbow-themed birthday cake crafted by Sweet Kneads by Farmington Bakery in Farmington. After posing for countless photos, he rested his arms, elbows bent, on the kitchen island and admired the work of culinary art at eye level. Isaac, encouraged by his mom (my eldest), chose a rainbow theme because he attends early childhood class in the “Rainbow Room.”

Shortly thereafter Isaac leaned over the counter, watching as his dad sliced into the cake, cutting the first thin piece for the birthday boy. Nearby, his older sister hovered. Soon we all savored the layered chocolate cake with strawberry filling.

There would be no blowing out candles in this pandemic year.

The stack of birthday gifts. Isaac noticed that I failed to put bows on the ones I gave him, far right. I won’t forget again. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

Afterwards, we gathered in the living room to watch Isaac open his stack of gifts. I love how he first opened each card, not simply as a precursory gesture, but because he genuinely wanted to see the special wishes for him. He delighted in Mickey Mouse, three monkeys… But, by far, the greatest hit proved to be the musical “3” card with its happy birthday song. All gift unwrapping paused as he opened the card. Closed. Reopened. Celebratory music filled the room.

Isaac’s mom helps him open a card. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

Finally, gift opening resumed. With lots of help from Isabelle. This year Isaac didn’t mind; next year he may. Among the gifts—a mini lantern to take to the “brown house” (Isaac’s label for an extended family lake cabin; his party location was listed as “the blue house”), a sensory exploration kit, puzzles, a sprawling farm play set, a suitcase and more. The “more” includes clothes from his other grandparents. I especially like the gold plaid flannel shirt. When you live in Minnesota, you can never have enough flannel. Even when you’re three.

What joy-filled hours we spent with the birthday boy. Randy and me. His uncle from Indiana, back in Minnesota for the holidays. His California grandparents and uncle and aunt now permanently relocated to Minnesota. His parents and sister. Only Isaac’s aunt and uncle from Wisconsin could not attend. Family embraced the birthday boy in a circle of love. To have those who love this little boy the most together to celebrate him swelled this grandma’s heart with endless happiness. What a joyful way to begin 2022.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Welcome, baby Isaac January 9, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

 

HE’S HERE, the grandson, my second grandchild. Isabelle’s not so little baby brother. And I am beyond in love with this beautiful baby boy.

My eldest daughter, Amber, gave birth to her son shortly after midnight Sunday. Isaac Henry weighed in at a chunky 9 lbs, 2 oz. and measured 22 ¼ inches. Who knew they measured in quarter inches? He’s tall like his daddy Marc.

 

Holding Grandpa’s finger. And, no, that’s not dirt. That’s grease permanently embedded in Randy’s skin. He’s an automotive machinist.

 

Isaac is healthy and darling and adored by all of us who love him, from California to Boston and many places in between.

 

 

Big sister Izzy, who turns three in early April, loved on her brother with cuddles and sweet words and a sweetness that melted this Grandma’s heart. While her parents and new baby brother were in the hospital, Randy and I cared for Izzy. Or rather played with her. Lots of Daniel Tiger and friends. Lots of book reading.

Finally, Baby Cake Boy, as Izzy early on named her unborn brother, is here. We have no idea whence that name came. It doesn’t matter. She calls him Isaac now, a biblical name. Henry comes from my side, the name of Isaac’s paternal great great grandfather.

What a joy to have another grandchild to love.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling