The cake was dense with the use of so many eggs and butter. When I arrived after my hike, she said I had to wait until Trevor came home for lunch. How was I supposed to wait? To take my mind off three layers of caramel stack cake? To silence that delicious masterpiece calling to me from Elaine’s pretty plate, with the blue, yellow, and orange designs peeking out from the edges of the caramel icing?
When Trevor arrived, more waiting. Did they really need to eat lunch? Clearly, I had other things on my mind, like that rich, sweet caramel frosting and the cake hidden beneath which I knew was going to be everything the picture on the recipe promised.
“Do you want us to sing Happy Birthday?”
“No.” I was firm on that, even as I was so grateful to my dear friend for always making me a cake and attempting whatever recipe I sent or that she came up with. But I didn’t want the song. I didn’t want to think about my actual birthday, in a few days’ time, when there would be no cake and candles, no present to open, and the “Happy Birthdays” would come by text, email, or phone call.
I already knew what my plan was for that upcoming day. I’d be mowing, dragging hoses to water thirsty trees starved by drought, and feeding the injured bull in the pen by the barn. The sweat dripping down my face and soaking my shirt would remind me that I’d been born. I’d remember as I checked on the eggs in the nest built on the bars across the new yellow panels all stacked together, that all creatures come into being with different struggles and obstacles, and yet they come and find their place.
As I listened to the Barry Manilow channel on my headphones, I waited for that little space of silence during the song that tells me someone is texting or there is an email. I watched the yard take shape again with each back and forth of the mower. I saw the care as I trimmed around the protein tubs turned flowerpots, all reds and yellows, purples and oranges. Soon the barn and all the outbuildings emerged again from the tall weeds. The whole farmyard came into being again, just as I did, all those years ago, from the dust of stars.
When my work was done, there were birthday greetings from my children, siblings, and my dear friends (along with my favorite biscotti and a good book)-all far away. But there was also that last piece of caramel stack cake, lovingly wrapped in foil and tucked into my bag when I left Elaine’s, and waiting for me to enjoy my day.