The Birthday Party
Poor old Mrs. Peters, I thought, smiling perfunctorily as I strapped on a ridiculous cone-shaped party hat and moved to the kitchen in the little suburban house. These hats are basically festive dunce-caps. I was always prone to epiphanies, so long as they were self-deprecating. But poor old Mrs. Peters was wearing one of these stupid hats too, and I didn’t want to seem rude. After all, it was her birthday.
Now, you may very well wonder why a fifty year old woman was throwing herself a birthday party. That very question was one of the three that popped into my head after I received the invitation. One of the others was: Why invite me? I didn’t know Mrs. Peters very well. I later learned that Mrs. Peters invited all her neighbors.; I was just the only one to actually attend. The low turnout was related to my other question: Why throw a birthday party at noon on Super Bowl Sunday? I have yet to get a definitive answer to this question. But nevertheless, there I was, sitting across the table from Mrs. Peters, sipping from a glass of fresh lemonade, trying to overlook the thinly veiled sadness lining her face.
Mrs. Peters had no family, unless you count Mr. Fuzzykins, her hairless Siamese cat (which I don’t). All skin and claws, Mr. Fuzzykins begged (i.e. scratched hashtags into my leg) for some of the cake on the table, a two-layer chocolate disk with a wholly irresponsible number of candles stuck in it. “That’s a lovely cake,” I said. Mrs. Peters began to sob. This carried on for a few minutes, during which Mr. Fuzzykins chewed through my shoelaces in three places. When Mrs. Peters calmed down, she explained:
“I’m sorry. I just remembered something from when I was a little girl. My parents never had much, and I’d never get birthday presents. But every year my mother would bake me a flourless cake.”
“Those are very tough to make,” I said.
“No, she just didn’t put in any flour. It tasted awful, but I was always grateful for the thought. When I was ten or so, my father got a better job, and I started getting real cakes for my birthday. I just remembered, at my first real birthday party, there was a cake. Small, nothing special, but to me it was the most beautiful cake in the world and a sign of the great things that were happening for our family. I promised myself, when I grew up, I was going to have two beautiful cakes for all my birthdays.”
Mrs. Peters stood up, grabbed a plate from a cupboard and rummaged through a drawer, eventually emerging with a large knife. She returned to the cake, removed the top level and put it on another plate. She beamed proudly at the dishes. “Now how about that?” she asked.
“Mrs. Peters,” I sighed:
“You can’t halve your cake and deem it two.”