“That’s all we’re getting?” Julia asks, nodding toward the pack of butter in my otherwise empty grocery cart.

“Uh huh.”

“Cause that’s all the money we have?” She looks concerned.

I take stock of the faces turning our way, smile and say, “That’s all we need.”

But that’s not true. We have eighty-one cents in our account and three more days until payday. I had syphoned gas from the lawn tractor to put in the van to get us to the store. Money is tight. But it happens sometimes. Times have been tougher for us, if you can believe it. That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that this is the first time Julia noticed it.

I pay for our butter, load the girls back up in the van and head home. The gas light blinks on and I increase the volume on the radio. The girls are too busy singing, “…somethin’ tells me I’m into something good” to hear the we-need-gas-ding.

We get home and immediately begin working on a cake, from scratch of course. It’s Grandma and Grandpa’s 35 year anniversary, so we decide to use the heart-shaped pans. The girls are so excited. They stand at the counter, watching the cakes cool. What they really want is the icing. Is it time yet?

I make up a batch of my buttercream. Julia suggests we make it a color and remembers that red and blue make purple, so that’s what we do. I sit at the table to ice the cake. The girls sit underneath it at my feet without realizing I can hear their plans to nab some icing.

“Spoons!” Lucy suggests.

Julia is more cautious and says they’ll use their fingers to get a lick when I get up. I clear my throat and shuffle my feet. She gets the hint. “Maybe if we’re patient,” she says a little too loudly, “Mom will let us lick the bowl.” And I do.

When I put the food coloring away, I discover some blue sprinkles in the back of the cabinet and let the girls add them to the cake. They ask me to call Grandma to find out when she’ll get here. The waiting is torture.

We make spaghetti – with meatballs, as it is a special day – and serve what Lucy calls “the love cake” for dessert.

Cake for my parent's anniversary

Julia declares it “the best meal ever.” And at bedtime, as I lay in bed beside her with my arms about her, she tells me, “We have the perfect family,” before she falls asleep.

But I am still thinking about the butter.