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A birthday milestone: Hitting the big 5-0

Deb Pascoe

April 16, 2011
The Mining Journal

By the time you read this I will have reached a milestone birthday: the big 5-0.

I predict a happy birthday. There will definitely be cake. Not just any cake - red velvet cake.

Last winter, Bud, The Mining Journal's managing editor, brought in his leftover red velvet birthday cake to share with us, his food-loving staff.

Article Photos

Deb Pascoe

The first bite of cool, moist cake and delicately sweet white frosting brought tears to my eyes. It was the taste of countless childhood birthdays, the cake I requested each year, made from scratch by my mother.

While it was embarrassing to be caught in a wash of damp-eyed nostalgia in the middle of a workday, it was also astonishing to have so many memories elicited by a single forkful of cake.

Have you read "A Remembrance of Things Past" by Marcel Proust? Neither have I. But as I understand it, the novel is based on the flood of memories evoked when a man bites into a madeleine, the same kind of cookie his aunt gave him when he was a child.

This was my red velvet madeleine moment.

I remembered the birthday when I came home from school to find a beautiful, plum-colored banana bike waiting for me in the kitchen.

I remembered the crisp dollar bills in a card sent by my Auntie Marian and Uncle Bill.

I remembered running across my yard playing party games with my friends on one unseasonably warm birthday.

Mostly, I remembered how special those long ago birthdays felt, a day spent celebrating the fact of my birth. I didn't have to do anything to earn or deserve it other than wake up another year older.

I tried explaining to Bud how moved I'd been by the taste of that cake, but I can't ever express tender childhood memories without sounding like a maudlin greeting card. So, swallowing the lump in my throat, I asked if his wife, Ellen, might be willing to share her recipe. Bud assured me she would.

A couple of days later, while grocery shopping with my daughter Melissa, who should I see in the canned vegetable aisle but Ellen - one of the few local people I know whom I'd never run into before while shopping.

Without preamble Ellen said, "Deb, follow me," and took off toward the next aisle. Mystified, I abandoned my cart - and Melissa - and followed.

Midway down the baking aisle, Ellen stopped and pointed to a box on the top shelf of the cake mixes. "This is it."

There it sat, my birthday cake Holy Grail, neatly packaged in a sturdy cardboard box, complete with instructions and frosting mix.

"Thank you." I tried to say more, but memories got in the way. I noted the exact location of the mix and promised to pick myself up a box in the near future, but I never did.

Flash forward to Christmastime. Bud hands me a red and white-painted tray wrapped in cellophane, bearing candies, coffee mugs - and red velvet cake mix. The box has sat in my pantry since then, waiting for April.

Flash forward to today, to me at 50. Grateful for another birthday, and for a tangible, edible reminder of all those childhood happy birthdays.

Pass the ice cream.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by email to Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot. com.



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