It’s been a week since I had an actual birthday.
I have one more year under my belt – one more year, one more cake, one more gathering of the people I love the most in the world, one more year’s worth of experiences – some good, some bad, some that don’t mean a thing, some that mean everything.
There was that year far, far away when I learned to walk and stick my fingers, then my hand, and then both hands into the big chocolate cake sitting on my high chair table. I made a horrible mess out of anything within three feet of me.
By the next birthday I had learned to talk, run, and get into trouble. I celebrated that year with another chocolate cake which I ate on the run, making a horrible mess out of everything in our house that was three feet tall or less.
The next year my training wheels came off my bike, I got straight A’s in school, found a best friend and ate my chocolate cake at the kids’ table, still making a mess but washing my hands before I took off to play with the other kids.
The birthdays went on. I won a beauty contest at a Halloween parade and a spelling bee in one stellar year so I celebrated with an extraordinary apple cake my mom made special for me. I didn’t make a mess at all because I ate every crumb.
The years floated past but the birthday celebrations and the cakes were always there to mark the milestones in my life – getting my driver’s license, graduating from high school, going steady with my Jimmy, voting for the first time, getting married, having kids.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, I discovered a new favorite cake. No more chocolate cake. My new way to celebrate was with a white cake from the bakery, with white icing that hurt your teeth when you ate it, and hopefully it was one day old so the icing was really set and a teeny bit crunchy.
Every year it seemed that there were more things to look back on with gratitude and the white cake from the bakery. Those were the years of working for MH/MR, starting up Care Free Weddings, having kids of my own that graduated from high school, went steady with their true loves, voted for the first time, got married, had grandchildren.
White bakery cakes saw me through tough years, too. The loss of my one month old baby boy, Calvin. The years when Jimmy and I both lost our parents. A single heart bypass. The death of my Kelly Jo. But there were good things that came along, too. I founded Stray No More, got my bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from UPJ, and still had time to eat my white bakery cake and think about the blessings in my life on my special day.
My special cake changed when Judy made me an Italian Wedding Cake four years ago. It was made with all kinds of superb things, including love. That cake became the new way to look back at the year.
My birthday wish for each of you is that this year when you celebrate your own birthday with your own favorite cake and your own special loves in your life – is that you take a little time to think about all you have accomplished in your lifetime, all of the people who love you, all of the lives you have touched from year to year.
Happy birthday, everyone.
(You can reach Janet Good, Somerset, at any time of the day or night simply by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)