My friend Sean has always talked about “Family Fun Day.” It’s this mythical time he has out in the suburbs of Maryland every week, and it has kept him from countless social activities with me, and his other awesome friends.
We were all very curious about what comprised Family Fun Day. I had briefly met Sean’s mom, but I kept hearing about all these cousins, aunts and uncles. And it sounded like there were babies everywhere, constantly doing adorable things like dancing and singing along to Beyonce. This had to be some amazing time for him to constantly ditch us.
We started asking if we, too, could join Family Fun Day.
We were consistently ignored.
Maybe it’s because he lives so far from the city and figured we’d complain the whole ride out there (we would). Maybe it was because he was afraid his family was a little too boisterous for us to handle (potentially true). But it took ten years before my friend Rebekah and I were finally offered the golden ticket to come to Family Fun Day.
And then Rebekah had a conflict and couldn’t go.
HA! *I* will be the only outsider to experience this magical land! Fine by me.
So, turns out, the day I’m supposed to go is also the day when the family will be celebrating Sean and his uncle’s birthdays.
And I’m told to wear clothes that I don’t mind ruining.
I’m sorry, what was that?
Apparently, it has become a tradition at Family Fun Day to cake fight during birthday parties. And not just that cutesy wedding toast kind of smash of frosting in the face. No, this is full out war simulation type frosting play here. Like some diabetic-coma inducing rite of passage.
Everything started out all pleasant. There were a lot of people there and everyone was just kind of chilling on the back deck – until it started raining.
Oh darn, guess I won’t be ruining my clothes today!
What was that? You still cake fight inside the house??
Sean assures me they do.
So we all pile into the downstairs basement. And that’s where I start to get scared.
One of the uncles looks me in the eye like we are marines entering enemy territory and he says something like “stay with me and you’ll be safe.” I then glance over to see an older cousin panicking, backing out into a side door squealing that No One Better Touch Her Hair! In the process, she leaves her two-year old in the line of fire. I hear her as she disappears behind a door yelling “Just don’t get it in the baby’s hair!”
(We totally got it in the baby’s hair.)
I see people nervously bouncing around me in anticipation and I’m fascinated. I glance back to the cake table where Sean and his uncles are now practically circling each other like lions.
I see grown men smear frosting on their faces like war paint and start working themselves up like NFL players before the Superbowl. I position myself so I could potentially run back up the stairs if things get too crazy. Finally, everyone starts singing a frenzied, slightly frightening version of Happy Birthday and before we even get through the whole song, the men start yelling the final words and frosting starts flying everywhere.
I turn and see people fleeing upstairs. I look back at the cake, then decide to make a run for it too.
Too late. I nearly get trampled in the stampede.
I lose a flip flop.
I turn to go back down just to see what’s going on with the cake, and something comes over me and I want in the action.
I grab a fistful of cake and clobber Sean.
I see happy murder in his eyes and I black out a little. I come to and know I’ve been hit. I start to turn and end up taking frosting to the face by one of the cousins. At some point I end up with one of the birthday candles stuck to my bicep and there's frosting in my ear. The fight ends up trailing upstairs, even out the front door at some point. Then finally people run out of caloric amo, and the battle ends.
As the sugar smoke clears, I pass one of the uncles in the kitchen who takes one look at me and just bursts out laughing, incapable of forming words at the sight of me. Another one nods and simply states “You’re one of us now.” While the other uncle who had initially been my potential battle buddy, just shakes his head grimly saying “I told you to follow me….”
I finally get to a mirror and see the full effect of my war wounds.
Oh the humanity...
At some point I see Sean wearing some kind of child’s plastic cowboy hat, covered in frosting, looking like he just lost several good men.
I pass the upstairs bathroom and see another cousin scrubbing frosting off the front of a door, muttering to himself “this is bad, this is really bad….” I walk back into the hallway and find the two-year old who had been left to the wolves.
That is one angry kid.
(And also now possibly my favorite photo in the entire world)
Everyone cleans up the best they can and we settle in to actually eat another cake.
That’s how into this that family is. They now buy two cakes.
Everything after that was normal until people start to leave later that evening. And then I witness yet another ridiculous tradition: The Send Off.
Whenever someone starts to leave the house, one of the uncles announces it. “Hey guys, DANA’S LEAVING.” Then you feel that tense anticipation yet again and you aren’t sure what’s about to happen. When it was my turn, I reached the top of the stairs I needed to walk down to escape, and the entire party starts screaming “GOODBYE DANA! GOODBYE! BYYYYYYYE! GOODBYE!......”
And I hear it out the front door. And all the way back to my car.I hop in and drive away, leaving the magical place behind, with only my memories and the frosting still stuck in my hair, as momentos.