I’m sure that there are some families that build layers of heritage by long walks, or feats of strength or a sporting event.
Us, we do desserts.
It’s my Mum’s birthday on Thursday, and according to her date of birth, she will be 65 this year. Except that she won’t. Because she is not here.
For the first year or two after Mum died, it seemed really important to me that we shifted the focus of the week to Dad. To our dear Dad, who was still here, living and breathing without his Brenda.
Dad and Mum shared a life, and a part of that sharing was special dates. Dad’s birthday is the 3rd of August. Mum’s birthday is the 4th of August. Their wedding anniversary is the 4th of August. And, as with most couples, there was a larger louder player, and a smaller quieter player. Mum was the outgoing one, the one who led the way. Dad would usually follow along fairly quietly, not wanting to make a fuss.
To him, it was the most important thing that Mum had a nice birthday, and that the people around her reminded her she was special. He never seemed to complain that his birthday was the detail tacked around the edges of Mum’s day.
This year, we’re heading down to Brisbane for an elaborate dinner at “Outback Jack’s at Strathie”. Apparently Strathpine has a cool name, just for those in the know.
And on Mum’s birthday, life will be utterly normal. A completely uneventful Thursday filled with work and school and household duties.
I don’t want to burden our family with the need to tread lightly, or to create a birthday party that would, for us, feel artificial and forced. We can barely pull off a party for the living, let alone for the dead*.
Without any lead up or negotiation, knowing that I will have no objection whatsoever from anyone, I have declared that from now on, each person we have loved and lost will be celebrated by “their” dessert.
Mum was an amazing home cook, and knew how to whip up a treat. And yet whenever we were asking what she would want for a special dessert she would often nominate the incredibly drab “red jelly”. She would tell us a story that I have now forgotten about childhood and red jelly.
So, this Thursday, in honour of my Mum and her layer in our family dessert, we will be having red jelly and icecream, and sending her spirit, wherever it may be, some gratitude and love.
Because I am the annoying Family Queen of thinking way WAY ahead … I have already decided that Dad’s dessert will be Pavlova. Seriously, can any Wakefield remember a special celebration for Dad that did NOT involve a Pav?!
Grandma B’s dessert will be chocolate self-saucing pudding, as it reminds me of my childhood Thursday night family dinners at her place back in a life where uncles, aunts & cousins all trotted into Grandma and Grandad’s place for weekly dinner together.
Hopefully someone in my family gives this post a whirl, and can remind me of a dessert that Grandad B loved, and a special something for Uncle Neil.
I’ll forever be in your dessert debt**.
I’m not sure what my dessert will be yet.
Hopefully I have a while before my layer of the Family Dessert needs to be set.
* I’m sorry if the word dead is hard for you right now. I have found that I like that word best. I just can’t come to “passed” “passed away” or “we lost them”.
**Happy to repay said debt with dessert.