Friday, September 24, 2010


On the night of my most recent birthday—an annual event that occurs only two days after David’s birthday—Mark cooked prime rib with fresh garden vegetables for dinner. I ate two helpings. The prime rib was delicious, and there was no need to leave room for dessert, seeing as how Tracey had baked chocolate cheesecake muffins for my breakfast, and we would be able to snack before bed on the last of the Mars bars squares she had baked for David. Their gift to both of us—a spiffy new webcam with tracking capability—stood patiently upstairs in the study, waiting for something to track.
Birthdays in our house have changed over the years. We used to celebrate them with David’s family. His mother loved to buy him his favourite cake. Then, when Ruth grew to adulthood, she would sometimes plan a party, a two-caker accommodating our differing tastes.
Though Mark grew up with birthday parties, his adult self never was one to celebrate birthdays. You could celebrate his if you liked. He’d never ask you to. You could tell him yours was coming and he’d forget, or maybe ignore your hint. But Tracey has brought about a change. Birthdays matter to Tracey. She has a generous heart, and birthdays lend themselves comfortably to some of her favourite pastimes—baking, shopping and giving. Compelled by her enthusiasm and her attention to the calendar, Mark has been transformed into a man who shops for birthday gifts. Once he has shopped for a gift, a point of pride, he gives it to you. “You might as well have it now,” he’ll say logically. “No point in waiting.” I look on in wonder. People change. How else can you account for it.
Birthdays in our family continue to change. Say what you like about tradition. The future pulls you forward. Mark disappeared while we sat at the table, sighing and chatting the way you do when you’ve eaten a bit more than you ought. Next thing we knew, he was urgently beckoning us upstairs to the study.
There, in front of the computer stood two cakes, a white Safeway cake covered in inches of disgusting white icing for those among us who prefer that, and a lovely chocolate cheesecake for me. There were candles to blow. Ruth and Derek were singing Happy Birthday into their webcam in Guelph. Thus began a most delightful cyberparty. It felt like fun. It was almost as if we were all there in the study. As we ate our cake, they were eating peach cobbler.
Who knows what the future holds? Who can possibly imagine? Will it be another year or two before some techy figures out how to share a cake over the Internet?

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