Saturday, September 09, 2006

Brother Birthday

Matt greets Jerry's wolf, Lawatchee
(which means in Lakota: Always Hungry)

Birthdays are a big deal in my family. It's a celebration of increasing Earth's population by one. We do this a lot. When I was younger, and my family went everywhere together, people would invariably ask if we were Catholic. "No, just careless," was the stock reply, though I have it on good authority from my mother that everyone after my brother John was a gift from God because she and Dad were doing their darndest to NOT have any more children. Chalk my family up to an incredibly potent mix of genetic fertility and an omnipotent sense of humor.

So every month or so, we have a birthday party. Sometimes it's a big deal and everyone comes together. Other times, the honoree requests a quiet birthday (no party), lunch out, or no recognition at all. Everyone is free to choose what kind of birthday they want. But it will be recognized - even if it's just a card in the mail or an email saying "I'm glad you're alive."

Today, we're having a party! My brother Matt is turning 32. It's hard to believe that he's getting so old. Mostly because being my4th brother down it means that I am becoming ancient.

John and his three kids have come from Atlanta/Macon, Jerry is going to take a break from towing football weekend accidents or scraping drunk students off the highway, and Z-boy and I will be driving out to the farm. MIA will be brother Andy, who's on duty (policeman), and James, who also has to work. My husband is working the big game today and I won't see him until after midnight. Dad is firing up the grill (now that he's got BBQ figured out), Mom is putting together extras like potato salad and beans and salad. I made the cake.

When I was younger, my grandmother was the official cake-maker. I don't know exactly what she did to her cakes, but most of the time they were wonderful. Occasionally there would be the cake that resembled a brick with icing, but on the whole, they were great. Sometimes someone else would make the cake, but Grandma was the baker. She died a few months after Z-boy turned one and I have been the cake baker ever since. She didn't pass down recipes or tips. Just a reputation and a cone-shaped piece of metal, held together with a tack.

Grandma was a master of (drumroll) the circus cake. When her children were little, she made the cone to bake the top of the tent. It was ALWAYS a big deal when you got a circus cake for your birthday. I can now appreciate just how much time and effort went into the circus cake. When my son was 2, I thought I'd make him a circus cake. It was then that I discovered that it takes 1 1/2 cake mixes and two tubs of icing. It also requires toothpicks (tent stakes) to hold it together. After the trauma of making a circus cake by myself the first time, I didn't do it again. So when Mom told Matt that I would make his birthday cake, he very hopefully asked, "Circus cake?" I couldn't say no.

The "Famous" Circus Cake

Make a wish, Matt!

The Remains

This is Matt's first birthday since he moved back. At the beginning of the year, I'm sure he had no idea that he would even be here for his birthday. He was married and living in Connecticutt. Then they broke up and he moved back home. And I'm sure he had no idea that his birthday would be as good as it was. He has friends. He has family that loves him. He has a job. He has a life. And Matt is the kind of person who recognizes the blessings in his life. For his birthday, he was surrounded by them. Including circus cake... his one spoken wish for his birthday.

Happy birthday, Matt! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us!


Janet said...

Growing up, I always wanted to be in a family where there was an event going on every other week. I had the next best thing- my best friend's family.

In fact, this is why I have an engagement party to attend today!

Btw, for some reason I'm having trouble accessing my own site today. I'm also having trouble accessing big sites, like Google. I don't know what is up with that. Hopefully it will all blow over soon.:(

nikki said...

i love me some cake! looks yummy.

Sayre said...

Yeah... I'm kind of dreading tomorrow's OLTA update...

factor 10 said...

Let's not talk about that silly contest... ahem.

How neat to have your birthday traditions! I think part of the reason I get so obsessive about them for my kids was that our birthdays could have gone either way when we were kids--nothing more than favorite food for dinner, or occasionally, the big party at the park. How fortunate for your brother that he's reclaimed his life less than a year after a zinger like that!

Nienke said...

My friend Mar also has a very close family and they get together and appreciate each other a lot. Mine, we try, but we don't get together as much as we should or would like to, which is a shame because my parents are in their late 70s. When I lived closer to them, I saw them daily, now I'm lucky if it's twice a month and I miss it.
You're lucky and blessed to have a close family.

Sayre said...

One of the things I love about my family is that they invariably get me laughing so hard tears leak and I worry about wetting myself. That kind of laughter is a rare and wonderful thing, but it seems that only my family is able to pull that off.

Mama C said...

Birthdays are a big deal in my family too. The birthday boy/girl gets to pick the restaurant for dinner. It's been a tradition since my parents split up. We do a fair amount of partying. My mom used to always pay, but then we started getting married, and having kids. Now, it's every little family for themselves. My husband doesn't understand this. He feels overwhelmed by having the entire family (all eleven of us now) out to dinner. And having to plan around so many schedules. I LOVE IT! I hope we do it forever!

Glad your brother has such an awesome sister! I wish I could bake. I'm making cupcakes for Colby's actual bday (Tuesday) for his class. This should be interesting, as I've never baked cupcakes (or any other cake for that matter). Wish me luck!

HoosierGirl5 said...

Great cake. My birthday is in July...will you do mine? (smile)

Your brother is cute. Too bad he's a full 10 years younger than I am!

Stop by my place again soon.

quinn said...

looks like a great time..I agree with nikki mmmmm cake...gimme LOL >

Kim Ayres said...

My father always said that a birthday was a celebration of life: something which said you were still alive despite the shit the gods had thrown at you. I've always felt pretty much the same way.

Having said that he turns 70 in 2 weeks and seems quite grumpy about it.

Jeff said...

Birthdays have faded in importance in my family. :(

I do love the cake, though.

Oh, The Joys said...

Cake. Me want cake. So jealous...