I’ve never been the biggest fan of birthdays. I spent my first birthday on a plane flying back from England, and the stewardess (the PC term “flight attendant” hadn’t been invented yet) wouldn’t let them light the one candle in my cupcake. You could still smoke on planes, but a birthday candle was dangerous. I firmly believe that that stewardess’s refusing my first birthday candle set the stage for a lifetime of birthday agony.
My complicated emotional relationship with birthday cake started on my third birthday. My family had just taken in our first exchange student, a girl named Maria from Sweden. Our birthdays were only a few days apart, so my parents decided to take us camping in the Adirondack Mountains to celebrate. I remember driving up to the camp and seeing the mountains rise above the car. That was really all I got to see of the camp besides the inside of the lodge where we slept. You see, the camp was infested with frogs. Thousands of tiny little frogs. They covered the paths and made it impossible to walk from one place to another without becoming a froggy mass murderer. Every time we left the lodge I was carefully carried with my face covered so I would not experience the horrors of amphibian carnage. But the true horror for me was not in the frog fatalities but in the birthday cake deception.
My parents had come prepared for two birthdays with a cake and a set of cup cakes. The night before my birthday my mother showed me a cupcake and the cake and asked which one I would like. I was a clever child and already understood that in the world of sweet treats more is always better. I chose the cake and spent a sleepless night dreaming of consuming enough cake to give a three-year-old the sugar high of her life. I remember waking my sister up in the middle of the night to lift me down from my bunk. I was too little to reach the floor by myself and had to make sure my beloved cake was intact. When morning finally came I didn’t care about presents or songs. All I wanted was my cake. I filled my little lungs and blew out those three candles with all the gusto I could summon. And then my mother pulled out a knife. She slashed my beautiful cake to bits in a show of violence far worse than anything the frogs had suffered. She passed pieces around giving slices of MY cake to everyone. I howled and cried but it couldn’t put my cake back together. All I got to eat was a slice smaller than the cupcake that should have been my choice. Ever since that day, I have been a birthday cake hoarder guarding the last piece of my cake with my life. Terrified that someone might sneak into the kitchen and steal my precious from me. Never again have I been offered a choice of cake versus cupcake. But if the choice should ever come your way, choose the cake. Choose the cake, take it and run. Not for your life, but for the safety and sanctity of your cake.