Monday, March 22, 2010

When I Turn Ninety, Give Me Cake


It all started while I was contemplating what to buy for Grandma for her 90th birthday. What sortofa thing do you buy for a woman whose wants are little, but whose experiences are so great? What can you purchase in this world that doesn't end up being just another trinket?

Grandma was 54 years old when I was born.
And she turned 74 the same year I flippantly turned 20.
More than fifty years have separated us for my entire life.
And yet, there had to be something.

Weeks before, we spent some time with Grandma -- taking photos with her for the Family Recipe Revival.  As we glanced through some of her old cookbooks, she told us stories about the foods she's made, and the special occasions that certain dishes marked.  She also informed us that she thought she'd "done everything worth doing" in her almost-ninety years.

*pffft*  I scoffed.  But, I found myself thinking about what it must be like to turn 90.   What would it be like to outlive most of your dear friends?  To watch your children grow up, get married, have children and make their own homes? To greet your first grandchild... and then a second, third...and numerous great grand-children? What must it be like to turn 70... and 80... and then, to reach the next milestone of life and wonder where all that time had gone?

And so, I did something that I often do when I'm deep in contemplation.  I baked a cake.

I started the process on Friday afternoon, and finished everything sometime Saturday evening.  After agonizing for weeks over what kind of cake to make, I'd finally decided upon "freckled mocha cake".  It's one of my favorite recipes from the Whimsical Bakehouse cookbook.  And it's one for which my grandmother has a particular fondness.  It would be filled with a thick layer of Bailey's Irish Cream flavored whipping cream. And frosted with Italian buttercream.  To top everything off, we would scribble up a nice message in melted white chocolate and add a few edible orchids for color.
Grandma's birthday party was a splendid little affair. We held it at her church -- a place that holds particular meaning for her. Plenty of relatives came to give their regards. Members of her church paid their respects, and members of the Ladies' Guild showed up to wish Gladys well... and then they kindly spent the afternoon washing up all the dirty dishes.
Grandma spent the afternoon eating and drinking and visiting. She tolerated the thousands of family pictures that were taken in her honor. And she managed to eat a particularly lovely slice of that freckled mocha cake.
 She even ate the flower.

Oh -- and that gift for Granny?

Well, as much as I contemplated buying her this t-shirt (I was amazed at the number of t-shirts there are out there for 90-year-olds), she's not really a t-shirt kindofa gal (probably another thing she needs to do in the next 10 years is to start dressing more comfortably!).  Instead, we decided we'd challenge that notion she has that she's done "everything worth doing" and give her a day out on the town.  We'll spend a bit of time at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  And then we'll grab some Grandmother-worthy lunch at the Watts Tea Shop... after all, they've been around for almost 50 years longer than she has!

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25 comments:

  1. Gosh, what a beautiful blog post! Whenever I visit here, I'm always taken with the quality of writing, but this one had everything. Gorgeous cake, inspiring story, lovely grandmother and good writing. Perfect!

    Melissa
    P.S. Did you really make that cake? Wow, I'm impressed! Oh, and Happy Birthday to your grandmother!

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  2. Congrats to grandma and to you! You have good genes in the family. Cake for all!

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  3. I couldn't agree with you more - cake at 90 would be more than enough for me! Gorgeous cake! - Mary

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  4. Okay, I don't think the intention was to make some of us all weepy, but it did. My Nan died 2 years ago at age 94 and I miss her terribly. The look of that cake, the b/w photos, and that t-shirt made me feel warm and fuzzy, though.

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  5. Happy birthday to your grandma! Mine turned 90 last year and it was insane.

    I think that cake would be the best gift ever when I'm 90. I plan on eating as much dessert as possible at that point. Beware cheesecake factory. Beware.

    Your decorations are insane! This looks professional.

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  6. I hope you or someone read this post to grandma. What a heartfelt and beautiful gesture Lo. My dad will be 82 this year, and he's moving in with us next month. Mom has been gone for more than 10 years, he just can't bear being alone any longer. Bless you and your grandma!

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  7. I need to take cake tips from YOU! Wow, this looks professional, and beautiful, and your Grandmother looks like the sweetest person to bake such a confection for. Great job!

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  8. How awesome! I hope I make it to 90 and get cake!

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  9. Beautiful cake. You did a splendid job and it looks delicious.

    Sounds like Grandma had a wonderful 90th. I hope I can celebrate my own 90th this way.

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  10. Awww. Your little granny is so cute! Beautiful cake, too. :)

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  11. Cute story! Thanks for sharing! And congrats to Granny for living a full and rewarding life! What did she like the most at the art museum?

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  12. Hey Chris - We're actually taking her to the MAM for the Art in Bloom exhibit in April. She's a big fan of flowers, so it should be right up her alley!

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  13. I'm sure she appreciates time with you more than anything else.

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  14. That is such an awesome and heartfelt post. Your Grandma looks like an awesome lady! :)

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  15. What pretty flowers on the cake!! I want a cake when i turn 90 as well.

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  16. Beautiful post. chills and almost-tears.

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  17. When you go to Watt's, be sure to stop in the DeLind Art Gallery on the building's south end...Bill is my significant other and has been enjoying your blog along with me...he would be delighted to meet you!

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  18. cabfranc - We'll definitely have to stop by for a quick visit! Thanks for letting us know.

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  19. cabfranc - I work right around the corner. I'll be sure to stop in soon and say hello.

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  20. Congratulations to grandma and to you! The pictures are very nice.

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  21. What a beautiful birthday story and cheers to your dear Grandmother!

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  22. That t-shirt is hilarious! The cake looks delicious too. Happy Birthday to your grandma.

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  23. Beautiful cake. Lovely Grandmother.

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  24. Hey stranger,

    Your Grammy is adorable! (Mine is 91 and I feel so blessed). Miss the blogging world -- haven't written OR read much, but I'm segueing back. Am catching up on yours right now and glad to "hear" your voice. : )

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