A Story that Begged Me to Write it Down
This past weekend, we were seated at a Bar Mitzvah with some old friends of ours, friends of Josh’s that I inherited through our marriage. He has known the couple since college. The husband married us. When I met them, their oldest child was a toddler. She was sitting with us at our table, now a teenager, in a hip pair of boots.
We were laughing about a cake decorating class I took about 9 or 10 years ago. Josh had asked me to get a hobby because all I did was go to work, go to the clinic, and cry. I would lie on my side, facing the window, and just cry continuously. He thought it would be good for me to get something to focus on that took me out of the apartment. I decided on cake decorating because it was a skill I thought would be useful when I finally had a child; I would make amazing birthday cakes. The classes were a fantastic distraction until we got to the unit on rolled fondant and one of my classmates announced she was pregnant, rubbing her flat belly continuously while the instructor spoke that evening, only six weeks into her pregnancy.
I went in the bathroom to do one of those soundlessly-screaming cries inside one of the stalls. One of those numbers where you open your mouth like a lamprey and no sound comes out, but the tears are streaming down your cheeks. Of course my classmate for the class that I was only taking to escape thinking about babies would be pregnant. Of course.
In order to get the certificate, I had to complete dozens of cakes demonstrating the various skills we were being taught in class. At first, people were psyched to get my cakes. Towards the end of the coursework, it was getting harder to move the cakes. I was making sometimes five a week. We just didn’t have that many friends who weren’t sick of cake. My co-workers were starting to hate cake. Josh’s co-workers were done with cake.
I had to start sneaking people cake. Trapping them with cake.
I made one boy this monstrosity of chocolate cake with chocolate icing. His mother had the misfortune of bumping into me at a Chipotle right before class began one night, and I told him about my class and then had Josh deliver Monday’s cake to their house. I invited over some friends with kids for a Sunday party of… cake! Their own individual cakes! Decorated in extra special ways. One boy got a drawing of a car on top of his cake. And this girl, our friend’s child who was sitting at the table with us at the Bar Mitzvah, had gotten a white cake with every single flower that I needed to learn for the week all combined on a single cake. Josh looked at it before they arrived and said, “it looks like a fifteen year old girl vomited all over her Quinceañera cake.”
Imagine, if you will because I’m too lazy to go into my basement and search for the photographic evidence, a four-layer enormous white cake cover in garishly-coloured buttercream flowers; 20 different kinds, none of which go together. With some basket-stitch icing on the side for good measure. And olive green leaves and vines snaking around the flowers for “realism.” And some of the side flowers slid down, leaving streaks of buttercream over the icing, pooling in colourful blobs at the base of the cake.
It really was the most hideously ugly cake of all time.
And that’s what we were laughing about at the Bar Mitzvah. The hideously ugly cake to end all hideously ugly cakes.
Here is the rest of the story.
Our friend’s daughter had graciously called it beautiful and ate a mound of neon pink roses. Afterwards, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, talking with someone, and she crawled over, pretending to be a baby. She had a new baby sibling who was hanging out in her mother’s arms. So she crawled into my lap and said, “I’ll pretend to be your baby.” She had a lanky preschooler’s body, but I held her, and rocked her, and sniffed the top of her blond curls, and pretended for a few minutes that she was mine. That I had finally reached motherhood. And then she grew bored of the stillness of being rocked by someone sitting cross-legged on the floor and crawled off to pretend to be a baby doing something else.
Those few minutes of pretend? How else do you get the desire to stick a needle into your stomach every evening without those minutes of pretend?
So we were laughing at the Bar Mitzvah — the little preschool now this beautiful teenager and the childless woman now the mother of eight-year-old twins — about the hideous cake. But this was the story in the back of my head while we were talking, the one that wasn’t reminisced, and when I got in the shower the next morning, it is the one that came out in the form of a brief cry for that woman who used to make five cakes a week. Almost as if it were begging me to write it down.