When we were tiny, birthdays were such important milestones; we were soon to be old enough to go to school or to drive, somehow we were yearning for our first kiss, our first road trip without our folks, the first time we tipped our toes into an chilly ocean. Momentous.
Then as we left adolescence, our birthdays ticked by and our milestones were further apart. Not so many momentous firsts. In my forties I lost track of how old I was. It just didn't matter all that much and I'm still off by a year or so.
Now that we are all in our sixties or close to them, birthdays again are exuberant celebrations, with tons of teasing, goofy jokes, great food, lofty surprises, the wealth of glorious friends and some amount of family. I got to go to one of those last week at a local restaurant, Cottonwood Grill.
It was Marty's sixtieth birthday. You have to understand this about Marty, she looks like she's thirty-five. She has a fairly new PhD, a growing reputation in the wholistic health field. She's a nurse. Mom to Molly and Matt. Wife to Mike. We'd been plotting her party for months. The we here is The Blackberry Tea Club, Marcia, and Mike.
The party started about 6:3o and Marty was appropriately surprised, due to some minor skulduggery by her friends, Marcia and Sherry. Her friends from the university, her old friends from the hospital we all worked at, Molly was there and her friends, as was Mike and his golfing buds, great guys who pretty much stayed in the background and had a Scotch or two, a half-brother, Mike, whom the family particularly loves. Marty thought that was it. Plenty at any rate.
Then her sisters stole the show. They got there about 7:30, five of them flying in from all over the west. Molly blasted the music We Are Family, and in the sisters come: they each had on Mardi Gra masks, they were wearing purple boas, and vests with spangles. And they were dancin'. You couldn't call it dancing. They are each doing their own spectacular moves, which might or might not have been in time with the music or each other. Priceless.
I got to make the cake. The restaurant was willing to do a cake, but it would have cost $150. So I volunteered. Here's what I learned: that you can defrost a bag of strawberries or raspberries, mash them up to replace the liquid in your favorite recipe, and add it to the cake batter, along with 4-6 eggs and a cup of veggie oil. I think you can use your old stand-by recipes or even a mix. I doubled the recipe and baked them in layers in a big, big round pan. Top it off with 7-minute icing, and you have a serious birthday cake that is moist and lovely.
Marty was in tears.