Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. Usually, I can breeze through this day. On her first birthday after she passed, we went to her favorite restaurant. Since it closed a few years ago, this is no longer an option. Monday, I decided to make a spice cake, her tradition for everyone’s birthday. Whenever the occasion called for cake, she had a spice cake with vanilla frosting ready. Finally, my dad admitted that he didn’t like spice cakes. Apparently, before they were married, my grandmother pulled my mother aside to tell her that my father loved spice cake. Wanting to be a good wife, my mother made spice cake for every birthday and holiday. When my father broke down and asked her to stop making them, my mother told him the advice given before their wedding day.
“Spice cake is my mother’s favorite!” my father revealed. “We tolerated it for her!”
While my mother began making us chocolate or yellow cakes for our birthdays, the joke never died. On my dad’s first birthday after my mom passed, I baked and sent a spice cake to him in Florida.
This year, I felt the need to make her a birthday cake. I explained to Liam, who hates running errands after school, that we needed to stop and get the ingredients to make Nana’s favorite cake. He didn’t complain. At the store, there was every cake mix except spice. I began crying in the middle of the market. Of course, this is when we run into one of Liam’s classmates and her family. I’m tearing up like a fool, carrying an empty basket.
“Picking up dinner?” she asked, being friendly.
Ugh… I decided to explain, unable to just say “Yes” and move on. It actually helped to get the words out. “I guess the is the universe telling me I don’t need cake,” I surmised.
In true awesome mother form, I made Liam a snack, let him watch TV, went upstairs, and cried. It has been months since I’ve cried over anything. I’m usually so good with my emotions; why am I crying over cake?
It hit me later when I was hugging Liam good night. Because he is growing so much, he can hug me with his arms on my shoulders rather than wrapping them around my waist. It made me realize that I forgot how I hug my mom; whose arms were on top? Did it vary? I was such a mess that I just went to bed, hoping to sleep it away.
Grief is grief. We never know when and how it will strike. We can try to prepare ourselves for when we think it will sneak up and make an appearance. Grief lets us know that things still matter, that pain doesn’t always leave us. I often wonder what life would be like if my mom were still here. I find myself forgetting things about my mom, or struggling to remember things that should be etched in my memory, and getting upset with myself, as though these lapses are a personal insult to her and her memory.
The best I can do it tell Liam about his Nana, share stories about her quirks and kindness. I can intend to make a spice cake and be okay if the universe tells me otherwise.