Of Birthday cards, and cake, and cake, and cake…

Just had a birthday on September 29th–43. Enjoyed a relaxing weekend with my family. It’s funny how birthdays become such a non-event as you get older; the less fanfare the better. However, it’s nice to get presents and cards. I have to say, though, I’m a sucker for the homemade card. I am so cheap, and cannot bring myself to spend more than 2 bucks on a card. My wife, on the other hand, loves cards and stationery. I don’t think she even looks at the price on the back. If she likes it, she buys it. I wish I could be that way, sometimes. But, you cannot put a price tag on the stuff your kids make you. And now that they are at an age where it is legitimately their creation, it’s even more heartfelt. Take this year’s crop:

This is from Owen. It is the top of the box my birthday cake came in! He has been into drawing these new noses–more like carrots–definitely gives me a more Mr. Smithers look from The Simpsons.

This is from Hayden. It is important to note that we are both smiling. Pictures of us smiling are good. In our house, if Hayden is happy, EVERYONE’S happy.

And this is from Owen,too. Owen can never stop at one. He usually makes about 5 cards for whatever occasion. I think it’s an oldest child thing. I love this card. The front said “Choose your own Light Saber” and had three choices. Here is the inside. Allow me to translate: Darth Maul said he wants to duel you. But I would not let him. So I’m dueling him instead. But I scared him off. Happy Birthday.  (Please note: misspelled words were changed by a certified English teacher). How cool is that? My son, all of seven years old, was willing to stand up to Darth Maul for me. Pretty brave, huh?

And, finally, cake. What birthday would be complete without it? Not mine. I love cake. Actually, I’m a cake freak. Once, at a wedding, there was a cake shortage. I was caught by the staff skulking around the head table eyeing up the bride’s piece. The women shooed me from the table and quickly whisked away the bride’s cake for safe keeping. Anyhow, for me, a birthday is all about cake.

Two years ago, my birthday sucked. It was really just not a good day. It involved lost keys at work, being late for Owen’s bus home from school…I was not happy. And my cake sucked! It was some freezer burned, stale log from Baskin Robbins. Nothing edible should come in log form. Pam apologized, “It was all they really had.” At that point, I just wanted the day to end.

Last year, as my birthday approached, I had an epiphany: We spend all this time and money on the boys’ birthdays, and they always have these awesome theme cakes. That’s great. I’m glad we are giving them these happy memories. But why are our cakes usually an afterthought? Some last minute thing from a bakery or–yikes–the super market. Well, no more! “I want my birthday cake from the cake lady,” I declared that night at dinner. I know, I know, who has a cake lady? (It’s part of this functional family thing, I think). “Wow, okay,” Pam said excitedly.

Thus, a tradition was started. Not only did I get my cake from this woman who creates these amazing works of art out of her home–for less than one would spend at a bakery–but I decided my whole birthday would be about cake. I would only eat cake on my birthday. I started the day with my mother’s grandmother’s homemade pound cake–which she dropped off warm that morning. For lunch, I had Pam’s  coconut cake, a delicious dessert we discovered while on vacation one year in St. John. And for dinner, I had this:

I let the boys pick the theme. They chose Phineas and Ferb, their favorite cartoon.

It was such a great day. This cake thing made it more of an event, but in a simple way. I had quality time with my mom in the morning. She actually thanked me for asking her to make the cake. Then she shared some baking memories about the women in her family. Pam and I were able to reminisce about our time in St. John, where we got engaged and fell in love…with the coconut cake (which was delivered on a photocopy of the recipe from its feature in Bon Appetit magazine). Then, the boys and I were excited all day about having the cartoon cake for dinner. “I get to eat Phineas,” Owen said. “No, I called Phineas,” cried Hayden. “Boys, no fighting on Daddy’s birthday.” Laughter.

In the spring, as Pam’s birthday approached, she announced one day: “I’m getting my cake from the cake lady this year!” Woot, woot! Again, the excitement over cake reinvigorated us. Pam’s birthday is always around Memorial Day, and we spend it at her parents’ house on the shore. So, she went for a (more adult) beach theme:

And so, this past weekend, as I began my 44th year on this earth, I celebrated my second anniversary of cake day. The same three were featured throughout the day (the entire weekend, actually). The boys chose an Avengers cake this year–they are currently obsessed with all things Avengers, and that’s fine with me, as long as I get the last piece.

So, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too? I disagree.  And, by the way, that has to be one of the dumbest expressions I’ve ever heard. I’ve always wondered: Why would someone have cake and not be able to eat it? Fool! Please don’t explain the origin of this if you know it.  I’d rather wallow in my annoyance while I continue to disprove this idiotic idiom—I will have my cake (S) and eat them all!

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3 comments

  1. I’m really enjoying your blog, Michael. Not sure how you do it, but you achieve a balance of self-exploratory and charming/funny. They hardly ever co-exist. I am betting you have at least one more career in your future: published author. (Also, wish I could taste each cake….yum!) Happy belated birthday.

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