Seeing the smile on my niece’s face when she blew out the five candles made everything my sister-in-law did worthwhile.
Arianna, my niece, had this big, goofy grin that showed her chipped front tooth. The skin beneath her eyes crinkled up as she laughed, and you could see the warm glow of the candle flame mix in with cerulean as it was reflected across her gaze. There was smooth red lipstick that Sam had smeared across Ari’s ips, and radiant teal eyeshadow covered her lids. Around her neck were pink and purple necklaces, at least four of them, and dangling from her ears were clip-on earrings. Her light hair was done up in an elegant braided bun, complete with a small silver tiara that Sam bought from Claire's. Fake plastic jewels adorned her sparkly dress, and on her feet were tiny golden dress up heels. She wanted a princess Jasmine glam party, so that’s what we gave her.
When I had come into the house earlier that day, I had told Arianna she looked gorgeous. She replied, “It’s because Sam helped me. She bought me a princess dress and a tiara! Now I look like a princess! You should ask Sam to get you a dress, so that you can be a princess too, Auntie!” She smiled brightly, gave me a hug, and ran out the door to play.
The circular table was draped in an aqua cloth, and sat upon the cloth was Arianna’s birthday cake. The cake had started as a store-bought Carvel Ice Cream Cake, but now, thanks to my sister in law’s hard work, it portrayed a scene of the desert from the movie Aladdin.
Sam had taken the cake to a grocery store a few days before where she had hoped they would create the scene from the film. Sadly, they refused, so my sister-in-law took matters into her own hands. She bought a pound of crumbled graham crackers off of Amazon, along with small Jasmine and Aladdin figurines. And after two hours of decorating on her own, the cake was finally done and up to Sam’s standards. All of the frosting on top was covered in graham cracker crumble, or sand. Jasmine and Aladdin were posed in the shade of a plastic palm tree and a stone wall covered in vines. Written across the sand was, “Happy Fifth Birthday Arianna!”. The cake looked fantastic.
Back in the kitchen, Ari sat up on her knees on a wobbly, uneven chair. I was worried that she’d fall off. Her friends were also sitting in chairs around the table, each with their faces caked in makeup and their nails coated in sparkles just as Ari’s was. And behind them were my siblings and parents, some holding up their phones to record the scene when we began singing.
Earlier, I had seen the rest of the house. It was a small space, but Sam did an extraordinary job at decorating. The living room was draped in azure and gold curtains that were pulled apart with shiny star-shaped balloons. Small tables spray painted gold were set up in each corner, each adorned with activities for the girls to do. On one table there was spray glitter and jewels for hair, while on another sat an assortment of different color polishes. My station had the makeup for the kids to wear. Most of it was Sam’s expensive palettes and brushes, which, all together, must have cost a fortune. Candles lit up the space and mixed with the scent of perfume and lotions, creating an unfamiliar yet pleasant aroma. Laid across the floor was a soft aubergine blanket covered in puffy pillows. Various candy bowls were located around the room within reach of the preschoolers. You could hear the movie Aladdin softly playing in the background for the kids to enjoy.
Hanging from the front steps was a Kylo Ren piñata covered in paper mache and painted by Sam and her friend to look like Jafar, the movie’s villain. Inside of it was an abundance of Arianna’s favorite sweets: Wildberry Skittles, Red Starbursts, M&M's, and Milky Ways. Laid beside it was a dandelion colored whiffle bat painted with blue and purple stripes, almost like a candy cane.
It really was quite a charming party. Each girl had gotten her hair, makeup, and nails done before being decked out in a princess gown and crown. After the beautification it was time for cake.
Ari was beyond excited for the dessert, and as soon as it was placed down in front of her she gasped out of happiness. The candles were lit, and the flames danced and flickered, casting dark shadows across Arianna’s face. Everyone sang, some more out of tune than others, and my nephew excitedly blew out the flame. After a few laughs, we relit the candles and let the birthday girl blow them out. Thin tendrils of smoke curled up towards the ceiling, dancing through the air and causing water to well up in the eyes of anyone who got too close. Sam cut the first slice, a corner piece covered in creamy frosting, and carefully plated it for Ari.
While everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, I couldn’t help but think about how much love and effort Sam put into this party. Her hand had played a part in every single aspect of this party, and every single aspect of Arianna’s life. She has taught my niece and nephew everything they know, from manners to how to be independant. New doors and opportunities have been opened up thanks to Sam’s maternal instincts, and Arianna never would have started dance without her. She truly cares and treats Arianna like her own, and I know everyone in the family appreciates what she does. Without Sam, who knows what we would do. She truly is our family’s saving grace.