“What kind of cake do you want?”
“Pumpkin Pie, Duh!”
My oldest daughter turns 24 today, and it’s a milestone, although she doesn’t realize it. After all, 24 is not normally a milestone birthday.
I’ve grown, along with my three girls, since Jess was born 24 years ago. It hit me while watching a commercial two days ago meant to show patriotism and tug at heartstrings. I think it was for a phone company but I can’t remember. It showed a serviceman on deployment, getting news on a video call that he and his wife were having a baby. And then later, seeing his newborn child remotely. When Jess was born, I was a Marine, sitting on a ship, I think in the Adriatic sea. Times were a bit different then, and I got a telegram from the Red Cross informing me of the birth. And a few weeks later, I got a VHS tape in the mail from my wife, getting a glimpse of Jess for the first time. But that commercial made me think. Both of the missed moments, and the great moments and all the moments in between.
Parents have special bonds with each child, and mine with Jess is no different. While my bonding time was somewhat delayed with Jess due to being deployed, I got some of my own time, a year and a half later, when my second daughter, Amanda was born. Taking care of two infants is hard work, as any Parent with two close together can tell you. With a newborn in the house, when I came home from work, much of my time was spent with Jess and I got quite a bit closer with my now 17 month old.
Some of those bonds take time to develop. Just as she is my first born, she is my last to leave. Not the home, she’s always been fiercely independent, but the last to leave from living close by. In a couple months she will no longer be less than an hour away at any time, and now will be two hours away – by plane, and 14 hours away by car.
Which brings me back to the cake. Over the last seven years or so, I started a new tradition with my girls. I’d make their cake, anything they wanted and I’d make it from scratch. The cakes would be different, and over the years, I’ve made Black Forest Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Red Velvet Cake without Red Dye, Ice Cream Cake, and even Chocolate Pie for one birthday. I’ve made sugar frosting, butter cream frosting and cream cheese frosting. These cakes have several traits. As I said, they are made from scratch. They also typically taste pretty good if I do say so. But they usually aren’t very pretty, between my lack of artistic sensibilities and not-so-steady hand. Other noted items from these cakes were the national disaster rating of the kitchen each time I made them and the fact that they were made in my home each time. These cakes shared my space with the girls that lived right around the corner or in my home.
Pumpkin Pie Cake has been Jessica’s favorite for at least 5 years running now. And now that she’s moving, it’s a tradition that won’t be the same. Last January, I made Amanda her last cake at home, although I didn’t realize it until December. And it’s been two years since I got to make Sara a cake.
This change doesn’t mean I can’t make the girls a cake, or that they won’t visit. I can ship the cake, but I won’t be there. I can travel there, but it won’t be home. The permanency of the tradition and its form is now gone. The cake won’t taste the same, even if it does. And it marks a milestone that snuck in amongst all the other ones that we typically see.