The Birthday Cake
by Carol Covin
It was January 15, 1968, my father’s birthday.
I was making him a cake.
Normally, this would be no big deal.
In my childhood, my mother was always on a diet that nobody spoke of, so if we three children were ever going to have sweets, it fell to me to make them.
She had given me a five-minute lesson once on how to make dinner for five in 30 minutes, which she did routinely every night after she got home from work.
Boil, drain and butter the frozen vegetables, rotating between green beans, peas, corn, carrots, lima beans, broccoli, squash and cauliflower.
Boil, drain and butter chunks of potato.
Make a salad of iceberg lettuce, sliced carrots and French dressing.
Braise pork chops, chicken, fish, or steak, or bake meatloaf.
Set out glasses of ice water.
My father didn’t believe in left-overs or sauces.
I never made dinner for my family, but was allowed to make the occasional chocolate chip cookies, brownies and birthday cakes.
In 1968, I was 20.
My parents had just moved from Texas to Georgia, so I was baking in an unfamiliar kitchen.
For the past couple of weeks, I had been sleeping nearly 18-hours a day, as I waited the month between the end of Fall quarter and finals at Michigan State and the beginning of second semester at George Washington University, where I was about to transfer to be near my boyfriend.
We’d met at Michigan State a year before. Two years ahead of me, he’d graduated the Spring before and was now working in Washington, DC.
I had begun to suspect I was pregnant.
My boyfriend had called me two weeks before and told me he’d just been drafted.
I had called him a week later and asked him to make me another appointment at the doctor who’d given me my physical for my GWU college transfer application.
Making plans to go up to DC earlier than I’d anticipated, before my boyfriend left for boot camp, I knew I needed to tell my parents.
The finished chocolate frosted chocolate cake fell off the plate onto the floor.
It is possible to scrape off the part of a cake that has touched the floor and this is what I did.
I reassembled the cake and presented it to wish my father a happy birthday, then told them what was going on.
“What will you do if you are pregnant?” they asked.
“Well, if I am, I suppose we’ll get married.”
On January 24, I called them and announced we had gotten married that afternoon.
The ceremony was private, just the minister and the two of us in a chapel.
“I suppose this means you’re pregnant, ” my Mom replied.
He left for bootcamp on the 26th and two years later for a year in Vietnam.
We will have been married 45 years this month.
Our two beautiful sons have given us two awesome grandchildren.
We never ate the cake.
Cindy Brookshire, Write by the Rails guru and a wonderful writer who works in all sorts of genres wrote this recently: We all have a cake story. Lianne Best wrote about her chocolate pound cake gone lopsided in a “Mom on the Run” column. Now there’s a “Bake Off” challenge on the Write by the Rails website to see how many cake stories we can raise.