Write a Birthday Story

My Grandmother Clara was known far and wide for her fabulous white cakes. During a visit one summer while I was in my mid-teens, she showed me her secrets. One of them was to sift the flour not once, but seven times. She always used Pillsbury’s Best flour — though she may have switched to Swans Down Cake Flour in her later years. She always slathered Seven Minute Frosting on it, and my very favorite was when she covered the frosting with coconut.

Although I know she baked this cake practically every time we visited, most have slid into a composite memory of Grandmother Clara’s White Cake. But one in particular stands out in memory. The year I was five, she baked her cake for my birthday, fixing it my favorite way, with coconut on the frosting. She wrapped it carefully in waxed paper (plastic wrap was decades away), set it in a box, and filled the empty space in the box with popcorn. Then she took it down to the Greyhound station in Clovis, New Mexico and put it on  a bus to Albuquerque. My mother met the bus in Albuquerque and brought the cake home. Nothing ever tasted so wonderful.

Other memorable birthday cakes include one my mom made for me with a Story Book doll stuck in the center of an angel food cake. She frosted the cake with whipped cream, smoothing it up to form a bodice for the doll, thus turning the cake into the doll’s huge big skirt. Another year she surprised me with an ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins. I’d never heard of such and thing, and was it ever yummy!

Maybe because I grew up eating “real” cake, mixes and bake shop cake have never appealed to me. Their texture is off, and they taste like chemicals. To me, the act of making a  “real” birthday cake is a gift in itself, an act of love. I’ve always made cakes from scratch for family members and special friends. Preferences have shifted to chocolate, with a chocolate-chip mint ice cream-filled chocolate log cake at the top of the request list.

Cakes are only one aspect of birthdays. When I remember birthdays, I also remember gifts, though these memories are few. Unlike most of my friends then and now, our family never has been big on gifts and parties for birthdays. Then there are special events that have coincided with birthdays, and various joys and sorrows that accompanied the turning of the calendar.

Birthdays are a splendid time for personal rituals. I usually take a few minutes on mine to update my timeline. Many other people begin a new journal on their birthday, write a special entry in an on-going journal, or treat themselves to something special

All of this is rich fodder for stories as a feature element or elaboration in a larger story. Think back over your birthdays, and look for memories that belong on your story idea list.

Write now:
a story about a significant birthday you recall. What made it special? Tell about all the trimmings, whatever they were: cake, gifts, party, (or the lack of any or all of these.) Who did you celebrate with? What did you do?


Karen Walker said...

Your grandmother's cake sounds scrumptious, Sharon. My hubby would love to try it. He's an amazing dessert chef, known for chocolate concoctions. I've mostly known bakery bought cakes, since neither of my parents were cooks or bakers. And now, I rarely eat sweets, only a bite here and there.

Kathleen Pooler said...

Your post triggered so many "food " memories. I remember that famous seven minute frosting. My favorite birthday "cake" was a lemon meringue pie.. I loved how you described how your grandmother packaged your white cake with popcorn then sent it through the mail. It reminded me of when my Italian grandmother,Carmella, used to bake Easter bread (pallone),ham pies and rice pies (traditional Easter fare in the Italian culture)and send them in refrigerated containers to us. They usually arrived on a greyhound bus and we would go to the bus station to pick them up. I remember opening them and smelling the rich aromas..nothing tasted better. Plus, we felt a connection to Carmella. Food really does connect people in so many ways.

life memories said...

There is no doubt birthday is a memorable event for everyone especially if you are child, you would more actively involve in it. And if you are presented a Cake on this occasion your grandmother made, you would never forget it, it is a gift of love from your loved ones.