I have a friend named Jack. I met him on his 7th birthday. He and I became friends because he has a great name. When I met him, I said “Oh it is so nice to meet you! My name is Jill and someone wrote a poem about us.” I don’t know if he thought I was as clever as I thought I was, but we did become friends.
He comes to see me every week and I love our visits. He usually brings his mother (she drives, he doesn’t), and she makes her coffee while he and I get caught up. He shows me videos of his ninja warrior classes and I tell him what treats I am making that week. He samples the goodies and gives me feedback. We discuss gingerbread houses and Legos and sports teams and chocolate mousse. There is so much to talk about.
Last week we got to talking about cakes – specifically, birthday cakes for 7-year-olds. I told him about my cake when I turned seven.
It was February of a long time ago. We were moving across country from Massachusetts to Washington state. We were leaving my family and friends and everything I knew. I was turning 7, my brother was about to turn 9 and my little sister was a solid 3. We all loaded into the car and headed west.
The drive took a week and it was so boring. I cannot even begin to imagine how many times we must have asked “Are we there yet?” My mother tried to keep us entertained by pointing out “smoke signals” and historic sites and possible mountain lions. She made a big deal of crossing into another state. We looked for out-of-state license plates (they were all out of state to us) and drank Kool Aid and colored. A lot. We also slept a lot. We slept on the seat, on the floor or on my mother’s lap. We slept in motels and motor lodges and sometimes inns. It was one of the longest weeks of my life.
When we finally arrived, we were tired and grumpy. We were hungry for food that had been prepared at home and longed for the comfort of our own belongings. We needed to settle in and make this new place feel like home.
The first thing I did when we arrived at our new apartment was open the fridge. I don’t know what I expected to find in there, but it is something I always do when I come home. As I opened the door I expected it to be empty. Of course, it would be empty; we had just gotten there.
What I didn’t realize was that my mother had called ahead to our neighbors and let them know we would be arriving shortly, and that it was my birthday. She had asked them to get a cake. So, there I stood, looking at a fridge that had nothing in it except for a single box.
Inside that box was a Winnie the Pooh cake, inscribed with “Happy 7th birthday Jill”. It was glorious. There was no food, but there was a cake. And that is why my 7th birthday was so special. Because no matter how tired or stressed or scared you may be, when it is your birthday, you must have cake. Thank you, Jack, for reminding me of this.