Dr. Seuss isn’t the only one celebrating a birthday this week. The bakery phone has been ringing itself silly with cake orders while I keep my bandana lowered, eyes on the pie shells. Every now and again I am forced to capture a cake request and its excruciating details on an order form.
Despite taking copious notes and re-reading the information back to the customer, I falter. Amidst the din of morning retail caffeination, it’s terribly difficult to be certain what I’m hearing is indeed “Happy Birthday Sally.” No sooner do I hang up the phone, I wonder. Did they say Sally, or did I write Sally when they actually said Ali? The prudent thing to do would be to call back to clarify, but a jumble of fresh and frozen pie berries demand my attention. I’m fairly certain the woman said Sally.
Sally is not a name we often hear, having been sidestepped by Harper, Peyton, Brooklyn and Paisley. The name Sally was an integral part of my childhood, a key player in my favorite Dr. Seuss text, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. My hardbound copy of the book is well worn, the pages struggling to hang on to its Seuss blue binding. The image of the Cat eating cake in a pink-ringed tub is as indelible in my mind as the Red-Red gel paste we use to tint royal icing. Dr. Seuss’ tale of a snow day going horrible awry includes many notable illustrations. One in particular still causes my heart to race; the high-heeled shoe of Sally’s mother framed in the window as she nears the house. My mother had several pairs of high-heeled shoes just like that.
As children, we didn’t know that Dr. Seuss’ birthday fell on the second day of March. We didn’t celebrate Read Across America Day nor did our mothers peruse Pinterest in search of crafty Seuss ideas. We simply devoured the lyrical verses and technicolor illustrations that many, many years later, we would pass on to the next generation of readers.
When asked to name their favorite Dr. Seuss book, Master/Master and Blondilocks paused before naming Hop on Pop and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, respectively. Nineteen years ago, Dr. Seuss’ birthday was acknowledged and Read Across America Day was unveiled with an assembly held in the Erdenheim elementary school cafeteria. Teachers donned lopsided red and white striped hats as students gathered in the room that served as cafeteria, auditorium and gymnasium. The lunch ladies were disinfecting the stainless steel counters, washing away the stubborn remains of commercial pizza slices served from hotel pans. There was a tangle of burnt tomato sauce and peanut butter sandwiches in the air. Nut-free lunch tables were in their infancy and the cupcakes we sent to school in honor of birthdays boasted plenty of gluten.
In classrooms and cafeterias all across America this week, cats in hats will share the timeless observations of Theodor Seuss Geisel. At the bakery, we are doing our part to honor the prolific author/illustrator. Sugar cookies are suitably attired in red-red and white stripes, alongside green eggs, ham and Mayzie’s daisies. My pie contribution is a jumble of brightly colored berries, both sweet and sassy; very Seussian, indeed.