Just A Birthday Cake

We didn’t get birthday presents growing up. Not right off the bat but as my mother soldiered on as a single parent of six children the birthday gifts kinda slipped away. We weren’t sheltered from our financial reality. At the Safeway we weren’t the kids asking for a Coffee Crisp, we were the kids holding our breaths for the total at the checkout, hoping she had enough to cover it.

Usually we got a cake on the big day. Usually. Sometimes we made it ourselves. One year, must have been my sixteenth or seventeenth birthday, I was asked what special dinner I would like for the day. I chose pizza pot pie.

Have you ever had pizza pot pie? Pizza pot pie is a lasagna type casserole but instead of pasta you layer with premade pizza crust. And instead of layers of ground beef and cheese you layer sausage and peppers with spaghetti sauce. Like any good casserole, it is to be doused generously with cheese. My 32 year old palette now gags at the thought of it.

So this one year I ended up making my birthday cake. I should say our birthday cake as I do share the day with my twin. And later I ended up making the pizza pot pie too. Downer. I write this with the caveat that I have a great family and a mother that many consider a super hero, myself included. But those were our circumstances back then. My mom was probably too busy driving six girls to a volleyball tournament to make dinner so I stepped up.

In adulthood my family has taken a new approach to birthday gift giving. If there is something we can all agree would make a sibling’s days easier or bring them joy we collectively buy it. Otherwise we all call to say happy day, love you, miss you and that’s it.

One year my brother, a consummate pizza maker, was lamenting the death of his electric pizza oven. His family makes pizza once a week and it was really bumming him out. One of my sister’s saw a sale on a pizza oven so we all chipped in on it for him. He was floored and hugely thankful for the gift. Another year one sister wantedto start a running program and we all chipped in for an iPod and Nike + running system. She was overjoyed at the thoughtful and practical gift.

I like this kind of gift giving. With no expectations there is no burden. No more lame scarf sets or bath soaps that scream, I needed to give you something and nothing came to mind.

We didn’t buy Henry a present for his first birthday. I discussed it with Chris and there was nothing we were burning to give him. He’s collected a few new toys in the past month from relatives and we’ve correspondingly returned or donated some of his older ones. Our little man is still without words but from his babbling, squeals and hand waving he seems quite content with what he has.

Just a birthday cake this year for Henry. I hope he looks back on the photos and sees how happy he was. That I baked him a cake from scratch and that we sang to him and he was delighted. I am sure there are many birthdays ahead of us where his young hopes and dreams will be pinned on whatever we have wrapped up for him. But this isn’t one of them.

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Comments

  1. David says

    It is so excellent when someone gets you a gift that you would have bought yourself only you didn’t. Or something you didn’t even notice you wanted but they realised it for you. I have had a couple of those in my life and they still shine brightly. It really makes you feel like you are connected to the person who got it for you. As for H, I am sure the cake was his hearts delight. Nice work.

  2. B says

    As always, I love this post!

    This year I was thinking of proposing a family wide Xmas draw with some sort of limit. The family has been growing and growing and shopping for Xmas is starting to get more and more stressful and expensive and less enjoyable on the day since the whole day is “consumed by consumption” rather the joy of togetherness and gratefulness. I propose a low budg fun gift exchange and crazy game of twister or another easy silly game.

    For first bday, I totally agree, why go nuts buying “stuff” when all they need is love (and they already have more toys than they would ever need and besides what they really love playing with is anything that is not officially a toy) and all you really need is this gorgeous pic of your little man on his bday! Such an adorable cake by the way!

  3. kl says

    We had the same “problem” with our son’s first birthday. A couple of items he needed already came from grandparents and godfather. But since we had a party with all those relatives, we felt obliged to buy something. We got a soft cuddly icebear, not expensive, that has stayed in the cupboard ever since. That’s going to Christmas charity this year. We felt stupid already when getting it, it is awful how you feel the pressure (even though no one probably would have cared…)

    • theminimalistmom says

      I think for his second birthday he will be more aware and we’ll probably do something a bit bigger. Invite people over, have a meal and cake together. And there will be a present.
      For now we are enjoying that he isn’t nagging us for toys.

  4. T says

    I have just found your blog. I love it! I would love to have the recipe for the birthday cake if you don’t mind posting it.

  5. Dee says

    Thank you from pulling me down from my cliff – it seems like 1st bdays are just OVERRATED these days. The only problem I have (blessing most would say) a million family members and friends that want to celebrate our son…I hope they don’t mind the lowkey affair!

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