Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



One Single Birthday Cake

Naomi Wein

What did I want my family to do — ignore my birthday entirely? Not buy a cake and thus abandon family tradition? That’d feel even worse

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

 Mishpacha image

BIRTHDAY BLESSING So much has been achieved this year. It may not have been filled with milestones, but my birthday does bear testimony that I’ve used a year in This World to the fullest

"H appy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you…!” my family choruses as they present me with a creamy bakery birthday cake.

They set it down on the table in front of me, and the frosting looks up to meet the expected glint in my eye and gleeful smile. But when I look up into the mirror in our dining room, the smile is strained, and my eyes carry no excitement. I glance back down at the cake: A curlicue of cream announces my age. I slip the knife through the softness and can’t hold back the slight grimace.

I don’t want to thwart the efforts to make me feel good on my birthday. And really, what did I want my family to do — ignore my birthday entirely? Not buy a cake and thus abandon family tradition? That would feel even worse.

I pass the first plate to my father. To my father, not my husband. Because I don’t have a husband. Yet. (That last word is there for my father; he would put it in if I didn’t.) I really wish I could be sharing this birthday cake with my husband. Just the two of us. In our own apartment. We would slice off just two pieces and eat leisurely, sharing a joke…

I continue cutting, slipping pieces onto plates, passing out the portions. When everyone has received a slice, I pick up my fork and take a piece of my own slice. It’s creamy and gooey, just the way I like it, but right now, it tastes both sickeningly sweet and bitter. I reach for a glass of water and take a gulp.

In my head, I hear that niggling, be-a-good-girl-and-eat-your-vegetables voice speak up. Stop it! Stop thinking so negatively! You’re making yourself feel miserable. Just feel grateful for all the good you have and stop dwelling on what you don’t have! It works. For about a minute.

I think of my married friends. I wonder what they think about on their birthdays. They probably exchange sentiments with their spouses, something like, “Last year, Moishele wasn’t even born yet!” or “Last year, Shira wasn’t even talking yet, and now she’s singing ‘Happy bir-day to Ima!’ ” But I don’t have such milestones to celebrate, because nothing much has happened since last year.

The party is over, the table cleared. I think a bit harder. I’ve gone through every hurtful, painful thought, and I’m ready now to analyze things carefully and think positively. I wonder for a minute, what is a birthday? Of course, it’s a day that’s all about you and when you were born, and you have cake. And maybe presents. But what kind of day is it in the spiritual world?

Related Stories

Lifelines: Riding the Wave

C. Saphir

My Great-Grandfather Elyakim fought to hold onto his Yiddishkeit, but didn’t see Yiddishe nachas fro...

Oneg Shabbos: Too Hot to Handle

Yeruchem Yitzchak Landesman

The holy Rebbe brought the child back to life — but years later, the fires of Gehinnom raging, was t...

Lifelines: Life After Paralysis

C. Saphir

I remember my first panic attack as if it happened yesterday. In truth, it happened 38 years ago, wh...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
No Misunderstandings
Rabbi Moshe Grylak Hashem revealed the secret of a balanced life
What Was the Court’s Rush?
Yonoson Rosenblum The Democratic Party’s descent into madness
Survey? Oy Vey
Eytan Kobre How could YAFFED promote such a farce?
Filling the Void
Rabbi Henoch Plotnik Jewish leaders don’t need to be declared or coronated
Top 5 Ways We Remember Our Rebbeim (and we love them for it!)
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin An ode to these pivotal people in my life
Hanging On in Newark
Rabbi Nosson Scherman Rabbi Nosson Scherman remembers the shul of his youth
A Fine Kettle of Fish
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman The “minor” chasadim are often the most meaningful
The Next Hill
Jacob L. Freedman The look on Malachi’s face nearly broke my heart
Tradition and Modern Meet in One Long Dance
Riki Goldstein Fusing tradition and modernity comes naturally to him
A Playlist for Shabbos
Riki Goldstein What does Moshy Kraus sing at the Shabbos table?
With Flying Colors
Riki Goldstein My 15 seconds of fame on the Carnegie Hall stage
Full Faith
Faigy Peritzman With emunah, everyone’s obligation is the same
Speechless
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Silence isn’t always golden
The Only One
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Within every Jew is the flame of instinctive emunah