I thought about something that used to be in the cake – quarters, or dimes wrapped in cling film. If I had a piece of cake with a quarter in it, it was a really big deal. Sometimes it would be obvious you would get the quarter, because when Mom was cutting the cake, you could see the quarter sticking out of it.
And Mom used to make fancy cakes, two or three cakes baked and then cut to make shapes, like once she made an air balloon shaped cake, a round cake with a basket on the bottom, and another time she made a bear, with extra cake for the nose, all covered with different coloured icing.The cakes, when they were covered with icing, looked like they were never separated pieces. She used to make chocolate mayonnaise cake.
Years later I made just a normal chocolate mayonnaise cake for a party for my boyfriend’s children. No shapes and I just covered it with chocolate icing. A young girl at the party said the cake was good and asked me what kind of cake it was, and what was in it. I told her. When her mom came to pick her up and they were leaving the house, the girl said Mom, we had chocolate cake and it had mayonnaise in it. Her mother said back, ”I don’t think you did, dear.”
And another thing. Sometimes we made piñatas for parties. We would blow up a balloon, then cover it with the wet newspaper until it dried and we would fill it with candy. I always wanted to just have the candy loose in the piñata for the full effect, so it fell out and scattered everywhere. But because we often did the piñata game on the front lawn (we tied it to the top bar of the swing set, then took turns whacking at it) I don’t think Mom wanted the candy scattered all over the lawn. So she put the candy into little plastic sandwich bags with twist ties, so when we hit the piñata with a broom handle, and made a hole, a neat little plastic bag of candy fell out and went plunk on the ground. We had candy like miniature chocolate bars and love hearts and jelly beans. We also were not allowed to all whack the piñata all at once like maniacs, we had to take turns, and besides, there was only one broom handle, or that was what Mom told us.
It was probably a good thing about the packaged sweets. I knew there were garden snakes in the hedges around the lawn (I knew this because sometimes when we mowed the lawn the snakes panicked and shot out of the hedge into the lawn mower, and then you had to stop mowing and there was a mess). Anyway, I didn’t want any of the snakes shooting out of the hedge and getting the candy when we least expected it.
I remember birthdays in my early 20’s which I managed to stretch over at least a couple of weeks. Cake one night, then out for dinner, then out to see another band, then another band, The Savoy, The QE Theatre, hangovers that might last to 5pm, and there might be an all-nighter pulled as well, where we ended up out by the swings by Stanley Park, when everything was quiet and peaceful. And then we ended up back at my basement suite eating Fruit-loops at about five in the morning.
Today I had my 46th birthday. It wasn’t a day where I had much time to celebrate. I worked most of the day, I got a take-out that I normally wouldn’t have bought, finished my bottle of wine I had open and bought another one to start just in case. I thought, originally, I was going to go up to the gym, then decided I was better off enjoying my own company at home. Birthdays are for sharing with people, and if you can’t share, then I know that I trust my own company, I know what entertains me, writing, googling, catching up on the news, having a glass of wine, falling asleep when I feel tired.
In some ways I will enjoy this birthday much more on another day, when the day is over with and I can concentrate on planning something I might want to do. Yes, I have had some birthdays which I have been glad to be over with, but I am glad that I had them at all.
We can’t always have friends nearby, the right relationships, the best life circumstances, sometimes we will, but we are blessed to have enough birthdays that we have had some that are better than others. I also think it is respectful to celebrate the day you were born, because it is respect for life.
I find as I get older I am getting better at treating myself with the little things that make celebrating life easy. I would think the big deal of the quarter is gone, although I can’t promise I could control my enthusiasm if someone put a money cake in front of me. I do recall the day, when my Grandpa Stewart was alive, and my cousins put eighty candles on his cake for his 80th birthday, and lit them all. By the time the cake was carried from the kitchen to where my Grandpa sat, the candles had half-melted over the top of the cake, but my Grandpa loved it.
So that’s my goal. Lots of birthdays so some are better than others. Eighty candles. Keep on celebrating.
This is a work of creative nonfiction; it contains no composite characters and no names have been changed. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them, but I have taken some storytelling liberties, due to my interpretation of events, fading memory, lack of time machine, and need to cherry-pick some memories over others in order to express my thoughts within the story.