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family traditions

family traditions
Photo courtesy, Heather Osterman

Ingredients for Cake

By Heather Osterman

I’ve always believed in the power of a homemade birthday cake, sifting my heart into the flour and creaming love into the butter until my being is fully integrated into every bite. And making cakes for my children took this passion to another level. My son’s first birthday cake was all organic, sweetened with applesauce and bananas. For his second, I bought special pans in order to make a disco ball, which I amateurishly covered in edible silver dust and fondant stars. The next year – year of the fireman – I watched instructional videos on making firetruck cakes and spent weeks perfecting a red natural dye buttercream blending beet powder and reduced cherry juice. But I never got to make that cake.

A week before his birthday, I walked into his room and found him unconscious, eyes rolled back in his head, vomit forming a thick trail to the floor. We went to the hospital by ambulance where they discovered he’d had multiple seizures but didn’t know why. We waited for him to gain consciousness, praying there wasn’t brain damage. When he finally woke, he was groggy and wobbly, but underneath it, our son was still there. He stayed in the hospital for six days as they ran test after test. We expected to have his birthday there but by some miracle, we were released the night before. The next morning I woke and began to take out the ingredients for his cake but there was no cake in me. Instead that night after dinner, I carried a store bought cake to the table. We sang, my son’s face bathed in the candles’ glow and it was clear that even though I didn’t bake that cake, there was love woven into it anyway, maybe more than ever.


Heather Osterman-Davis is a mother of two living in NYC where she attempts to balance domestic and creative endeavors.  Her writing has appeared in Time; Brain Child; Literary Mama; Creative Non-Fiction; Slate; and Agave Magazine. You can find her on Twitter.

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4 comments

  1. GREAT STORY. AFTER MY DIVORCE WE INVITED OTHER DIVORCEES ALONG WITH THEIR CHILDREN . EVERYONE BROUGHT A POT LUCK DISH AND A GRAB BAG [ AND IT COULD BE ANYTHING UNDER $5.] EVEN HANDMADE GLOVES, SCARFS.SOAP,TOOTHBRUSHES, UNO CARDS, SLINKIES ETC. WE KEPT ON EXCHANGING THEN UNTIL EVERYONE HAD SOMETHING THEY REALLY WANTED OR COULD USE. A LOT OF LAUGHTER WAS SHARED BY ALL . NOW THAT MY KIDS ARE SCATTERED ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AS ARE MY GRANDCHILDREN ,THE MEMORIES ARE STILL THERE. Marjie

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