In birthday circles, the number ninety is fairly monumental. It reopens the ongoing Cake vs. Pie debate and requires thoughtful flavor consideration. It also means Sibling Sister and her Toronto crew will be flying in for the celebration. In light of Canadian border crossing regulations, the transport of any jams, liquids, or fine baked goods into the Garden State is strictly prohibited. This leaves me assuming the role of dessert facilitator for the weekend.
Deciding what to bake is less of an obstacle when the celebration spans several days. Additionally, it is with unbridled joy that I am allowed to embrace the dessert challenge with neither dietary nor allergy driven restrictions. In today’s world this is pretty remarkable, if not extraordinary. In fact, had there not been the constraints of persistent, seasonal malaises, I could have ordered party invitations declaring in a bold, cursive, font: There Will Be Gluten.
In an attempt to be all-inclusive, both Cake and Pie will be featured in the festivities. Thankfully, the birthday girl’s flavor profile features a fondness for anything lemon, particularly those of the Meyer variety. And unlike my father who was known to proclaim his preference for vanilla, my mother is always about the chocolate, a quintessential February flavor.
Over the course of the weekend there will be plenty of lemon and copious amounts of chocolate. However, unlike the birthday parties effortlessly orchestrated by my mother for decades, I will fall short. There will be glaring omissions, specifically in the area of decorations. Don’t look for curling streamers of pastel crepe paper suspended high above the dining room table, thumbtacked securely where stray cobwebs meet ceiling corners. Blatantly absent will be pudgy balloons adhered to the wall by means of static electricity. Severely lacking will be a Happy Birthday centerpiece fashioned out of Gibson or Hallmark party papers. We won’t need a blindfold or a donkey likeness, a limbo pole or floor space for Twister. Knees, hips, shoulders, and necks have a way of out growing party games. Instead, we’ll amuse ourselves in remembrances, overdo with too many slivers of pie and cake. Thumbing through black and white photos and Polaroids will resurrect bad memories of dreadful hair-dos and dated fashions. In our excitement we will talk over each other, repeating classic family stories destined to embarrass. Eventually a glass of something will be accidentally knocked over, requiring a generous dousing of seltzer which will only make things worse. As the small puddle gains momentum, it will sprawl across the table littered with crumbs and droplets of wax from birthday candles that set off the requisite smoke alarm. All of this in the name of happy and healthy and many more. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Let’s just hope someone remembers the goody bags.