Cake and Ice Cream

This past week in the office, my co-worker asked me, “What kind of cake do you want for your birthday?”


It should be an easy question. Except for it’s not an easy question, never was an easy question, for me. Not as easy as pie. Would pie be easier? It’s an option I suppose, at least my co-worker told me so.


She would make me anything. I know she would. Maybe I should let her. Maybe she would get it pretty close to right. But what about birthday cake is so hard for me to choose? A couple of factors, too many to count. Presents and parties have long since abandoned my birthday. The real answer is that cake is the only traditional gesture that remains, from everything that was supposed to be a given, which are not usually given, even when I ask for them.


At times, I let my low expectations get the best of me, and baked my own. My first year back from Guatemala I was determined to have the birthday I hadn’t had for years. I looked up dozens and dozens of cakes. And, I was the only one that wanted the flavor even after I thought I chose a flavor I would appease many. Chocolate malt. That is like cake and ice cream together, right? To make matters more wrong, I developed seasonal allergies and the entire process of making the cake was enough to make me want to lay down. Never again would I plan on feeling well enough to make my own cake.


Most of the time, I circle around what cake represents. Someone else is supposed to choose it for you. This person may make it for you, or they purchase it. AND, they should be there to eat it. There is a level of knowing someone to know what they want. If I was with my brother’s family, my sister-in-law would make an amazing chocolate cheesecake, but she can’t make it so. . .


My dad tried for several years, and I tried to help him get it right. I gave detailed directions of a small restaurant to buy from, knowing that the glass case had all kinds of phenomenal and new flavors. He brought home plain chocolate. Desperate to prove his love and skill, he decided to bake me a cake the next year. From a box. With frosting from a can, metallic laced sugar taste and all.


“What kind of cake do you want?” The question feels as hard to get right as ‘what do you want for your birthday?” In fact, that is what the cake question is asking.


This year I did receive a cake. My dad bought it. Chocolate cake. Vanilla icing. Sprinkles. All underneath a plastic dome. He kept it in the refrigerator for two days, covered with a note not to look. So, instead I wished. I hoped. And then, I hoped for the best. He lit candles, not 43 of them. The cake wasn't big enough and we didn't have enough candles. I stared and made a wish for a better answer to, "What (kind of cake) do you want?"


The answer: I want my whole family. I want friends who have open schedules who could make time from their own families. I want flavors without fights. I want people to accept their own limitations, both in skill levels and in levels of knowing me. Mostly, I want the language to express this when asked, “What kind of cake do you want for your birthday?”


I guess, like everything else in life, I want my cake and to eat it too. And I don’t want any ice cream.

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