Thank you all so much for your suggestions. Special shout-out to Jen; Catherine Newman's gingery Napa slaw was fantastic. Carrie, who pointed out that a chiffonade of mint "just sophisticates the shit out of a fruit salad," was absolutely right. We had canned baked beans à la Christine, with a thin sprinkling of chopped bacon and brown sugar on top because nothing says, "homemade, motherfuckerrrrrrs" like molten aftermarket goo. May suggested pasta with pesto, confirming my initial inclination to serve it; Charlie and Ben love it and it can sit out for hours with no ill effect. I was thiiiis close to making what Jacquie suggested, a salad with cherry tomatoes and edamame, but since I'm the only one here who eats tomatoes the thought of leftovers intimidated me. Instead I made quinoa with sliced peppers, arugula, and hearts of palm, dressed with a Dijon vinaigrette. I steamed and then chilled some asparagus. I made cupcakes — not banana, but, Melissa, I will — capped with three inches of ganache. Ben sheared the frosting off his, leaving the cake itself untouched and insiting he was all finished. Then, of course, he took me by the hand and led me inside, plaintively saying, "Top! Top!" I couldn't figure out what he meant until he stood at the counter and forcefully pointed at the platter of cupcakes. "Top!" he demanded, plunging his finger deep into the ganache. Ohhhhh, I see.
It was a good party. The kids Ben's age played largely in parallel, blowing bubbles, rolling in the sandbox, playing fetch with Frisbees and balls. We pulled them around the yard in a wagon until Ben got the idea to pile it high with toys and child-size furniture, laboriously hauling it over the grass like Steinbeck's littlest Joad. Charlie was mildly freaked out not to be the center of attention, but his few minor outbursts passed quickly when I calmly walked him inside and told him he could be pleasant outdoors or a jackass in-; overall he was wonderful company. In fact, my only regret is that I forgot — aggh, I hate that I forgot — to send a cupcake home for the brother of one of Ben's friends, stuck at home with their mother.
Yesterday Charlie woke up before Ben did, yodeling, "Ben's twoooo!" He clambered up onto our bed, all elbows and knees, like, child, that is my kidney, and it was sleeping, and said he wanted to go wake Ben up "so we can see how he's changed now that he's two." If I'd known he'd be so interested, I might have chosen a donor more carefully. Instead of checking "any" under "ancestry," we could have written in "Autobot."
In due course Ben woke up, not much different from the day before. He talks, sings, makes jokes. He'll pee on the potty if you sit there long enough with him singing endless loops of "Happy Birthday." ("Sing 'Happy Birthday' Dad! Sing 'Happy Birthday' Mickey Mouse! Sing 'Happy Birthday' my toes! Sing 'Happy Birthday' toothpaste! Sing 'Happy Birthday' Mama's towel!" I can do this for days. Patience, empty toilet paper roll, your serenade is next.) He shares when he feels like it, more frequently than not. He loves to dance and claps his hands when the music ends: "Hooraaaaay my music!" Yesterday he almost exploded with joy when I announced a trip to the playground: "Playground playground playground playground go outside, play!" Because, see, it was a celebration, his birthday, not like all those other days we go...to the...playground.
At breakfast Charlie asked me if I had any memories of when he was two. What I remember most clearly is thinking, in puzzlement and pleasure, Huh. Two's kind of awesome, surprised to be so enjoying the bridge between baby and boy. I thought we might be skipping the fabled terrible twos, and indeed we mostly did, though when three came calling, it was swinging a sock full of nickels.
So we move into two knowing this moment of sweet rambunctious hilarity can't last. Which might make it even better.