Let Them Eat Cake

By Suzanne Wiggins

My birthday is a few weeks away and normally I would be trying to decide what type of cakes I’d be baking to share with my Mug Club friends. It all began a few years ago while having an after work beer with my friend and fellow Mug Club member, Dan. During our conversation he mentioned that as a kid, his mom always made a butter brickle cake for his birthday. If you’re unfamiliar with butter brickle, it’s actually English toffee chopped into small pieces. His mother had passed away several years earlier, but it was obvious that the thought of this special treat every year on his birthday brought back fond memories of both his mom and childhood. Right then and there I promised Dan that for his next birthday I was going to make a butter brickle cake just like his mom use to do.

And that is how I became the unofficial “Official Birthday Cake Baker for Mug Club Members” at the Rochester Mills. In actuality, I don’t bake for the entire Mug Club which has over 500 members, but just the small inner circle of regulars of which I belong. There have been carrot cakes (with and without raisins), cheesecakes, German chocolate, Italian cream, red velvet, chocolate stout, lemon, chocolate chip angel food, and antique caramel just to name a few. Each one is made from scratch with lots of care and attention. That’s not to say they’re without fault. Although they’ve all been described as delicious, not every one has fared so well on the journey from oven to plate.

The circle of Mug Club members I bake for continues to grow usually by way of, “how do I get on the list?” There are those, however, who will never have to ask because it makes me happy to create special cakes just for them.  My question is always the same; what kind of cake did your mom make for your birthday as a kid? With most, the response is immediate. For some, there is no memory or sentimental attachment to childhood birthdays so the question simply becomes, what’s your favorite?  And for the sad few that have no preference, I bake whatever interests me at the time.

If my dad were alive, he would love this idea and probably be disappointed that he lived too far away to participate. He loved cooking, baking, and generally doing kind things for his friends. As kids, my dad would always ask us what we wanted for dinner on our birthday. This tradition continued into my first few years of college. My request was always the same without deviation and every birthday meal was as delicious as the year before.

With three weeks left until my birthday there is no need for cake planning or baking. My amazing friends have decided they want to bake for ME this year. I’ve gratefully accepted because their thoughtfulness truly makes my heart swell. Following protocol they have asked what kind of birthday cake my mom made me as a kid? The question was easy to answer, but the truth is harder to tell. I would gladly forego cake any day in exchange for the special fried liver and onion and lima bean birthday dinners my dad use to make.

Stories My Sister Tells

I have a great imagination. I owe it to my sister Karen who developed and nurtured it while we were kids. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of her having me close my eyes while she told wonderful and elaborately descriptive stories that I would imagine in my mind’s eye. We still talk about my favorite stories of the train rides through a tunnel that was speckled with glittering jewels of every kind. The train adventure was different with every telling except that it always made it through that tunnel.

It’s probably not a coincidence that my sister and I both love to write. I can’t say that it’s a direct result of our creative imaginations, but I have a strong suspicion that writing is an outlet for the crazy and wild ideas we dream up in our heads. Until I launched this blog I have rarely shared my writing with others. My sister, however, has been brave enough to put herself out there for quite some time. While working for a hospital physicians’ group long ago, she and her co-workers were encouraged to submit written examples of the organization’s core values in practice. The following was a submission my sister wrote and then shared with me.

While shopping in my local grocery store many years ago I witnessed an act of kindness I have never forgotten, and it changed me as a person.

A slim, tiresome man who looked to be in his late thirties was shopping. He took his time placing two or three items in his cart. As he shopped he would take one item out and replace it with another, being careful to select only the items a few dollars would buy. From his appearance it was clear that he didn’t have much money. His jeans were faded and dirty, and his skin was tanned and aged.

Another shopper took note of the man, watching his actions quite closely. The woman seemed to forget about her own shopping to study the man while slowly following him from aisle to aisle. Then, as the man momentarily stepped away from his cart, the woman quickly placed something in it. As I walked by I could see it was a twenty-dollar bill.

Driving home from the grocery store, I saw the man again. He was on the side of the road hitchhiking. In his left hand was a grocery bag, and in his right was a Coke. I smiled and hoped the twenty dollars had bought the man a little extra food, and perhaps made his day a little brighter.

I will never forget that day or that man. But, what impacted me the most was the woman was my mother.

Do something kind for someone; it will impact more people than you know.

Like you, I was unfamiliar with the story until I read it. Very likely, there may be members of my family that will read this post and hear the story for the first time as well. I hope it resonates with them as much as it did with me.

As a side note, I want to point out that technically I did not write anything about my mother on this blog.