Why the day before my birthday is going to be hard for a while

So my grandmother died this past summer.

For a long time, I was closer to my grandfather, and my grandmother was closer to my cousin–this is not to say we didn’t get along, because I adored my grandparents (my love of Shakespeare comes from my grandmother, I think; my love of fantasy and science fiction is in large part attributable to them; my unfortunate love of the song “Elvira” is entirely their fault[1]), but for whatever reason, my grandfather and I were just closer when he was alive.

After he died, Grandma and I really started to bond. I took her to doctor’s appointments before she moved in with my parents–there was one day we got each other laughing so hard that neither of us noticed the light had changed, and getting honked at just cracked us both up more–and she cooked with Scott as often as she could (Grandma and the Lovely Husband both liked spicy foods, where the rest of the family is not quite so inclined), and during the very dark parts of 2004/2005, she was the person who made me food I could eat and the one person who could tell me to eat and I just did it. I don’t think she realized just how much of a light she was for me, then.

My kid was, I think, something she never expected to have, and she was so delighted by him–and he loved her, utterly.

***

Anyway.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Family lore states that I was due on March 21st, and my grandparents were rooting for it because it was the anniversary of their first date.[2] When I went to college, I would call them every year on the day before my birthday and wish them a happy anniversary. I was the only one who did this, which was fine because it was Our Thing. I kept doing it even after my grandfather died, because it made Grandma happy (and me, too, to think of them as teenagers going to the movies together with no idea that decades later that movie would result in … well, my goofball of a child and his shark teeth). The only year I missed was when the boyo was really little–I remembered early in the day and then he got fussy, and I forgot until the next day. (I wouldn’t let her wish me a happy birthday until I wished her a happy anniversary. I am a cheeseball.)

So this is the first March 21st in 23 years that I don’t have a phone call to make. It occurred to me sometime in February, so I decided to Make a Plan, and that plan was … cupcakes! Fancy cupcakes!

See, Grandma was also the birthday cake baker. My mother and I are still arguing about which of us gets to inherit this title (I am going to win, by the way), but I’ve been wanting lemon cupcakes for months, and by god, I was going to bake some goddamned lemon cupcakes for my birthday. And I got the frosting bag and tips, and fancy-schmancy edible glitter sprinkles, because why the hell not go all-out for your 41st birthday, right? It seemed fitting–like, baking, which is Grandma (and the frosting bag), but cupcakes (lemon especially), which is all me.

And then last weekend Mom was finally organizing all their books, and gave us a bunch of Grandma’s cookbooks–which included the one containing her buttercream frosting recipe. My nefarious plan was falling into place! Bwa-hahahahahahahaha!

***

As it turns out, my father had eye surgery earlier this week, so my birthday is only going to be me and the guys. So I said, “Gee, maybe I’ll halve the recipe, then.”

“How many does it make?” Scott asked.

“Sixteen.”

In a voice like an elder god, he replied, “MAKE. THEM. ALL.”

And so I did[3]:

Happy birthday to me, bay-bee!
Happy birthday to me, bay-bee!
Mmmm.  Sprinkles.
Mmmm. Sprinkles.

There is no way we’re going to eat all these cupcakes. But I don’t care. At this point it’s more like an art project:

My current project, with the husband's current project in the background.
My current project, with the husband’s current project in the background.

***

This was the best-smelling recipe I have ever made, by far. I got to play with the lemon juicer and a frosting bag, too! That frosting is ridonkulously sweet[4]–there are two pounds of powdered sugar in there, which seems excessive. If I make this again (and I probably will!), I think I’ll cut it back by at least a quarter, maybe more. It goes really well with the cupcakes, though, which are very lemony and delicate.

(Oh my god, have you ever used cake flour for a cake? The batter is so light and frothy! It was a joy to put into the pan, a sweet little kitten of a batter! Wait, maybe that’s not a good metaphor …)

***

In the end, I was sad today, but it was also a nice day. And the cupcakes are really good, even if I think I’ll end up either giving them away to the neighbors or tossing them, because none of us can take that much sweet.


1[back]I need to find that on iTunes. Scott will hate that song …

2[back]The fact that my grandfather remembered this anniversary is probably one of the reasons I ended up married to the man that I did–which is ironic because he has no head for dates.

3[back]Yeah, there are only thirteen in the picture–there are three more in the kitchen that wouldn’t fit on the decorative plate.

4[back]You know it’s insanely sweet when the seven year old turns down a cupcake because he had some of the frosting earlier.

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