Thursday, July 21, 2011

A terrible day for the Greek people...

Flickr: luna715
About a year or so ago, my father and I had this conversation...

"You know how I will always remember your birthday?"
I paused, expecting some sentimental story.
"That was the day the Turks invaded Cyprus. A terrible day for the Greek people!"
I felt vaguely that I should apologize, somehow.

My mother had a more legitimate grievance about the timing of my birth--her due date was July 4th and I was born July 21st. So instead of a patriotic, Independence Day-baby, I was born nearly nine pounds, with hair and my mother had nearly three extra weeks of being pregnant in the middle of the sweltering July heat.

Despite this rather unprepossessing start, I always loved my birthday as a child. I spent literally a month planning it--back in the day before Type A parents had children's birthday parties with bounce houses and pony rides, I would comb old-fashioned party planning books. There were many scheduled games, followed by the presentation of a box with wrapped prizes where the winner would have to pick his or her reward by pulling on a string, hoisting up a dangling gift, sight unseen.  My mother and I blew up all of the balloons ourselves, and I thought my twisted streamers and Garfield or Snoopy-centric decorations were quite festive.

My mother never baked from scratch--ever--and she always ordered an ice cream cake from Carvel.  Chocolate and vanilla with pink roses and icing.  (Red was my favorite color, and I think they didn't offer red roses).

Carvel ice cream cakes, when frozen, are the most uniquely indestructible substances on the face of the planet. Diamonds from the darkest mines of South Africa cannot compete with a Carvel ice cream cake extracted from the freezer.

The cake would wait as the guests mowed their way through McDonald's burgers or pizza and candy (there was always theme-specific candy in favor cups).  Finally, the family's sharpest knife could saw its way through the cake, helped by the sweltering mid-July temperatures.

It's hard not to see a metaphor for my life in the cake.  As a small child, I wanted the cake to melt so I could eat it all, I wanted things to rush on quickly--counting down the months to my next exciting birthday in half-years ("I am seven and a HALF"...No one ever says. "I am thirty-seven and a HALF.) 

True to form, I would always clamor for the slice with the MOST icing roses and couldn't believe that people would want a slice without them, much like I always wanted to be the MOST famous writer/actress/TV personality and couldn't understand why you wouldn't NOT want to be the best whatever.  You can never have enough pink icing roses!  NEVER!

And yet, I would always try to savor the cake--eating the icing separate, the flowers one by one, running the crumbling chocolate crunchies over my tongue, first when they were hard, then enjoying them as they softened to Oreo-like consistency.  Trying to keep the chocolate and the vanilla separate and make the cake last as long as possible. 

Kind of like the way, all of my life, I've been very reluctant to commit to things permanently--I want to keep the birthday cake as long as possible, to keep possibilities open....

Reluctantly, I have to concede that I may not become an Olympic gymnast at this phase of my life,  but I look better and feel better than I have in previous years--better than I did at twenty-seven or seventeen, even...and given that I have my two front teeth, perhaps even at seven.

I'd also like to add that I share a birthday with the legendary comedian and director Jonathan Miller, Ernest Hemingway, and Robin Williams.  So perhaps July 21st isn't such an infamous day after all.

No Carvel cake for me this July 21st, though.

Food and fitness-wise, since my last birthday, I've begun baking more intensively, cut out almost all of the 'fake foods' from my diet (including fake meats), begun practicing yoga almost daily, went vegan for a bit--then added fish back to my diet, begun food blogging and baking more seriously, and tried to get past major fear barriers with my riding.

Even with all of its imperfections I am very grateful for my life.
Image credit: Cake Central

Although, I still cannot understand why you wouldn't want the pink icing roses on your slice of cake....


  1. Happy Birthday! I love an excuse for an ice cream cake, even though I am a winter baby. In the Midwest it was all about the Dairy Queen ice cream cakes. Similar to Carvel I think but the middle layer was fudge mixed with crumbs and the frosting was that technicolor gel stuff. I'm sure now they can do fancier stuff like laser printing and all that. But flowers and glitter are much better.

  2. @MD--we had no Dairy Queen, and I do think the Carvel v. Dairy Queen is kind of a East versus Midwest thing. Carvel is more 'frozen custard' while Dairy Queen has more add-ins. I agree--flowers and glitter do 'take the cake' when the alternative is one of those odd cakes with a photograph silk-screened on it--which is kind of creepy when it's a photo of the birthday person...

  3. Happy Birthday! Another brilliant piece that captures what life as a seven-year old was like before pink stretch limousines would pick up 25 girls for a day of manicures. Back when I could eat cake, Carvel, with its chocolate crunchies, was my favorite. Always loved Carvel. Wish I could eat it now.

  4. @Roy--ugh! I know those girls and they live far too close to my home! I have heard that Carvel isn't as good as when we were kids because they cheapened the formula and use less expensive ingredients. So I'm kind of afraid to 'go back' to taint my memory and have that cake again--but those chocolate crunchies were so damn good!