I know I sound like a broken down recorder, but… thank you again. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. for all your thoughts, and words. Even though I did not “see” anyone of you on July 29, I felt surrounded by warmth, concern and love.
And I just want to let fellow deadbabymamas know, that I am glad I know you. That we have to meet through our blogs like this, because our babies died, is sad indeed, but I don’t know how else we will cross paths, given how spread all over we are? (Thank goodness for the Internet, I say.) The thing is, even though we are bereaved mothers, we are also more than that. Truly, when I come and read on your blog, I do not think “deadbabymama“; I can see the person that is larger than that. Each of you have a different voice, and offers a different angle and take on things. In this way, I have enjoyed getting to know you in small ways. Through your blogs, I have participated in your lives, somehow, uninvited. I sit and bite my nails as I watch you on your arduous journeys to bring a new life into your families; I weep as you release butterflies for your little one; I take sneak peeks into your closet; shake fists at those rude and idiotic comments you get on your blog; I pound my heart with you and I gape as you allow strange men into your home to rip away half of the house; sometimes during my day I smile, sometimes even laugh, when something funny you said cross my mind. Maybe we will never meet; never sit at the same table or even be in the same city- ever- but your story, all its versions, have touched me, in all ways. I just want you to know that I do not just think of you as a fellow bereaved.
And as for my real friends whom I physically meet and touch, thank you, for your support and understanding this past year. Thank you for honoring this grief journey, and for holding the space so respectfully. It means the world to me.
Last night I laid and thought of many lines that cross and then diverge. That is how friends are, how life is. People come, people go. I have gained, and lost friends through Ferdinand’s death. But that was not the only time. Friends have come and gone when I changed schools, studied overseas, or moved overseas. Friends came and gone as values changed, lifestyle changed, jobs changed, blah blah blah… and so it is. Right now, I am content with how it is. I do not ask for more. Thank you for being in my life, and allowing me to be in yours, even if I’ve been a somewhat sucky friend.
Now the dirty scoop: the hardest parts of yesterday…. … it was not 1205, when he was born. It was when dusk fell. Something about the fading of light; something about how light seamlessly blended with the dark, that made me realize that I have no control, made me gasped and weeped. The notion that the day is almost gone, brought on associations of things that had gone… …The second hardest part was when I frosted the cake with whipped cream. Yes, it was hard partly because the cake is rather delicate, which made the frosting job challenging, which made me afraid that I will screw up and there will be a really ugly cake. What made me bawl was the reality sinking in again. The third hardest part: singing the birthday song; watching the candle flame flickering, moving my eyes from one face to the next… …
Yet, no matter how hard it was, I know that I was lucky. I had the luxury to have the time to myself, to grieve, to write, to cry. I thought of bereaved mothers who never had the support; who had to swallow and bury their grief and bring them to their graves alone. I thought of mothers who did not even have a moment to be by themselves to grieve, and to remember. I remember stories of old grandmothers blurting out at the end of their days, how they missed those little ones they lost… but that no one wanted to talk about it. My heart aches for all these women. I hope, mothers never have to be alone again in their grief.
These cards came in the mail, made by our friend Margaret (who lives barely 10 minutes away) and her sweet children. I totally bawled.
When I was young, a few weeks before my birthday I will be asked, what cake do you want? Meaning, do I want it in the shape of Mickey Mouse? Or perhaps Batman, or Strawberry Shortcake? There were three flavors to choose from: vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.
In R’s family, a few weeks before one’s birthday, they get asked by my mother-in-law, what cake do you want? Meaning, a traditional rum cake? Or an authentic German Blackforest? Or perhaps, a jedertorte? (German Hunter’s cake, with hazelnuts, egg liquer, chocolate, all kinds of stuff. Complicated. Time-consuming. It’s one of R’s favorite cakes.) Only the best of ingredients would be used. My mother-in-law is one hell of a baker. One year she made me my favorite cake- the Blackforest. I can still taste it in my mouth, it was pure heaven. Her kitchen is nothing fancy; her equipment not the latest shiny-spanking ones and her oven is just so antique you need some special technique to know how to open and close it. But she turns out the most scrumptious cakes. Simply the best. From then on I knew what a good cake should taste like.
When we first came to the US, we drove around trying to get to know our town, and to find out where to buy stuff. One day we drove by Food City. It looked crowded, which we took as a very good sign. We went in and saw the bakery section. Heaps of sugary frosting, and in psychedelic colors too. We bought a piece to try. I do not even remember if it had a taste. Then we went to Fry’s bakery section. More neon colored cakes. I almost wanted to pack up and leave.
Until we finally found AJ’s Fine Foods, we were sure that there is no decent way to eat a cake here except to make our own.
I started to figure out how to bake a cake. With real stuff. Preferably with spectacular results and moan-ful responses, like when my mother-in-law bakes. Well, I am not there yet, but at least neon colored store-bought cakes no longer have to be an option. We will never be that desperate to go that route.
So, a few weeks before someone in my family has a birthday, I ask: what cake do you want?
R likes the traditional German stuff. Val loves anything chocolate, though this year she surprised me by asking for a mango cake. Sophia is a die-hard chocolate addict, so no surprises there yet. (Although I have heard her telling her sister that this year maybe she would go for a blueberry cake.) For R, the real stuff is important. Real egg liquer, real cherry liquer, real farmer’s cheese. (The last item will never be found here.) For the girls, sometimes the form is of priority. A cake in the shape of the number four. A cake that is a castle. A cake that is a kitty cat. A cake that has wispy ghosts on it.
I enjoy this. I love baking and I like a good cooking challenge. For me it is a labor of love. And it has become some sort of a birthday ritual in the family. To produce the desired cake, and watch them enjoy it. (I do have a tastebud issue in such circumstances. After spending a lot of time baking and assembling a cake, i can’t really taste it. I always have to rely on R to tell me if it truly is good. And, he is brutally honest in this respect. will mince no words, and gives no sympathy points for effort spent.) It is fun browsing through baking books, drooling over photos of mile-high cakes swathed in miles of chocolate; or plump luscious berries glistening over an entire cake. I do not like fondant though. That wedding cake category I cannot stand. yuck. Have you ever tasted fondant? Ewe. yuck. It will keep a cake moist though. But who wants to wait to eat a cake?
After Ferdinand died, i did not bake for a long time. Just did not have the heart. No energy. could care less. to hell with everything. While I used to bake goodies for snacking, for the last year when the girls got hungry between meals, I asked if they would like to nibble on my fingers a bit- it could stave off the hunger. It takes a lot to bake- ingredients, time, energy, heart. It still is a challenge.
This entire month the girls have been asking, “What cake will Ferdinand have?” I have no idea. They inquired with urgency, “What cake do you think Ferdinand will like?” And I told them, “Probably something chocolate.” can’t go wrong with chocolate.
But in the end I picked out this recipe. Something new. Uses almond flour and coconut flour. But it uses white chocolate for frosting. I do NOT like white chocolate. Urgh. NO WAY. Over my dead body. So instead, I opted for obscene amounts of fresh whipped cream, and tons of sliced strawberries for the filling. And made a few tweaks as I went along… …
So, making this birthday cake involved:
- a muttering to the kitchen gods to have mercy
- 10 eggs
- a sprinkling of sorrow
- 1 tablespoon of rum (I may have accidentally added more)
- about 1.5 cups sugar
- cartloads of love folded in
- 4 cups of heavy cream (whipped with 3 small packets of vanilla-bourbon sugar; one of my mil’s dirty little secrets)
- 1.75 cups of almond flour
- the girls’ happy shrieking swirled in
- 3 Tbsp of coconut flour
- tons of memories
- 1 tsp of coconut extract
- loads of care, thoughts and love from friends that held my hands steady
- 4 cups of sliced organic strawberries
- generous helping of tiny chocolate chunks pressed to bottom half of cake
And… … to be able to watch you smear the cream all over your face, and fling the cake to the whirling fan, and to stuff your nostrils with strawberries; if only I could see all these, Ferdinand: Priceless.