It happened nearly 20 years ago and has forever been known in family lore as “the cake incident.” It was early September. There are quite a few family birthdays around this time of year, so we traditionally have a gathering either at our place or my twin brother’s house to celebrate them all in one shot. The fateful year of the cake incident, it was Tim’s family’s turn to host.
On that cursed Sunday, our family was contributing our famous chocolate raspberry cake, which I can almost taste as I write these words. I know my last sentence makes it sound like all four of us – my wife, Nancy, and our two sons, Calder and Ben – contributed equally to the creation of this masterpiece. And I’d be happy if you just continued to labour under that illusion. But that fully-iced cake, in all its glory, set a new standard in the annals of birthday cake baking. Resting royally on a flat, antique, green glass cake plate, it was perfect in every way. All that remained was the simple and short car ride from our home, just beyond Leaside’s borders in Moore Park, to my brother’s home on Crandall, just east of our alma mater, Bessborough Drive Public School. It’s a very short trip. Five minutes at most, and that includes the lights at Moore and Bayview and the block-by-block stop signs for which Leaside is famous.
We loaded up the minivan. Nancy had all the wrapped birthday presents in her lap in the front seat. The boys were buckled up in the back seat, Ben still in his booster car seat. I gave Calder the cake to hold on his lap, you know, that beautiful cake resting on the flat, smooth, glass cake plate – that plate with no edges that might stop something (say perhaps a cake) from sliding off. And now you know.
We were all set to go and pulled out of the driveway and headed north on Welland Avenue to Moore. Welland dips a bit as you close in on the intersection. I slowed down and came to a complete stop as the law dictated. Apparently, the cake did not respect the law and just kept going. As Calder and Ben now recount the story – apparently indelibly etched in their memories – the cake slid right off the plate, executed a perfect 180-degree flip and landed hard but quietly on the floor of the car, icing side down. The force of the impact flattened and dispersed the cake with quite an impressive blast radius, including reaching the pantlegs of both boys.
Oblivious in the front seat – and often in other locations, too – I made my right turn onto Moore and headed east. Nancy also had no idea what mayhem had unfolded just behind us in the back seat. Calder now says that he looked at Ben, their eyes wide, and for a time just said nothing. There was a very uncomfortable 20 seconds or so when they knew what had happened, but we parental units in the front seat did not. Ever bright, Calder realized that the cake could not be salvaged and that we’d need to stop at Loblaws for a new one. So about halfway between Welland and Bayview, on Moore, this little voice croaked from the back seat, “Um, I dropped the cake.”
We bought a lovely yellow and blue Loblaws cake that said Happy Birthday Edith. (The order had been cancelled and we were in the right place at the right time.) When we got to Tim’s house, I spent the first 15 minutes of our visit with a garbage bag, a kid’s snow shovel, and a bucket of water. I swear I could still smell the lost cake as we drove home later that night.
I know what many of you are thinking. Why would any sane, relatively experienced parent hand their nine-year-old son a cake to hold for even an instant, let alone a five-minute car trip into Leaside? I plead momentary insanity.