I have been meaning to write a story titled The Last Piece of Cake. It’s been floating round my head for years along with recipes, dryer lint, plans for world peace, and a few lost marbles. It’s crowded in there.
The idea came from my “mom’s”. That’s right, plural. My mother, Judy and her sister, Joan are identical twins – so identical that sometimes I still can’t tell their voices apart over the phone. Their children, the four of us “girls” grew up with what seemed like two moms. Sometimes this was great. Other times it was not so great. It was more like there were four eyes watching you instead of two. Eight, really, if you count the extra pair all Moms have in the back of their head.
When we were younger, they would sometimes make reference to this “last piece of cake” deal and roll their eyes – like there was a private joke between them- only moms would understand. When we got older, we were let in on the “secret”.
They said they would always give us-their kids- the last piece of cake, even if they really wanted it for themselves.
They even sort of acted it out for us.
“Anyone want that last piece of cake?” one of us would ask.
“Mom, do you want it?”
Heavy sigh. “Oh no, honey, you go ahead”
Longing glance at cake. “I couldn’t eat another bite.” Some real Oscar-winning performances.
Ok. I’m gonna let them in on a secret. Duh. We knew we would get the last piece of cake. Why? Because we knew they loved us more than cake. And we only felt a super tiny bit guilty. For about 5 seconds.
I get the story. In theory, I always did. But I understand it more now that I have experienced wanting someone else to have that last piece of cake. Ok, sometimes I want them to have it. Occasionally. Maybe only rarely. But I have given up the last piece of cake. And I really like cake.
I know there is sweetness in giving. In nourishing someone else. I get that.
But, I never wrote the story because I wasn’t sure what else to say. I felt like there should be more to this cake deal , not just giving something away, not just sacrifice. A different message. But I had nothing else to share on the subject. Or maybe I just felt guilty for eating all that cake.
I started thinking about the life events marked by the cake. The birthdays, Christmases, funeral dinners, births and weddings where the cake was served in celebration.
This made me hungry. So I went and had some cake and imagined some of those events and the cakes that went with them.
The twin Moms are turning 75 this week, so I focused on birthday cakes. My birthday cakes mostly. I couldn’t help it. My mom baked and decorated some fine cakes for those birthdays.
Did I really appreciate them all?
My first birthday cake I probably smeared on my face. Ditto maybe years 2, 3, 4 ? Probably didn’t appreciate those enough.
When I was 17, I probably didn’t even show up for cake. That would not have been cool. If I was there I’m sure I scowled at the camera, so there’s not a photo.
In between, I know I was pretty proud of some of those cakes. And cupcakes. Cupcakes went to school. When you are holding a box of hand-baked, hand-decorated cupcakes, it’s easier to make friends.
It must have worked. On my 10th birthday, there was a party for a bunch of girls. We played pin the tail on the donkey in the basement. My dad was sick and this would be the last cake he had with us. It makes me wonder how many other cakes were bittersweet for the adults while us kids stuffed our faces- tasting only the sugar and the fun.
How many times did the adults not feel like celebrating? Where there times they would rather have been doing something completely different, something for themselves? How many times did the cake tasted a little stale?
I hope not many. I hope most of the cakes were layer cakes. Vanilla sweetness and good memories layered over the tears and the sadness when we lost someone we loved. Hope and joy and chocolate as babies were born. Love and strawberries when marriages were celebrated. Laughter and dancing and buttercream. Mounds of forgiveness and meringue cushioning the disappointments.
Just like the layers of life.
When we go out to eat, Rollo and I sometimes only order one piece of cake to split. Diets and all, ya know. I’m usually a little nervous to start, afraid I might not get my share, but there’s always enough. We try to give each other the last bite. But then the other person cuts that last bite in half leaving a smaller last bite for the other – who cuts that in half. You get the idea.
We both get the pleasure of giving without giving up the eating.
I can finally write this “Piece of Cake” story because now I know what I want to share. The sweetness and the sadness. The savoring and the giving. Sharing all the layers of life. With all of you. And, of course, the cake.
So, Moms, thank you for all those last pieces of cake, everything else you gave us, and everything you taught us.
How very lucky we are to be able to have this 75th birthday cake with you. Better yet, it is NOT the last piece of cake.
Save your fork. The best is yet to come.
Dive in. Let’s share some cake. Smack your lips and lick your fingers if you need to. Enjoy!