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THE Birthday Plate

“Look, Gran, your cake is on THE birthday plate!  And wait ‘til you see inside the cake.  It’s not a plain cake,” said my Grand.

            Elsie, age 12, had used a yellow cake recipe and stirred in Hershey’s Cocoa in half the batter.  She poured the two bowls of batter into round baking pans and then used a knife to swirl the flavors together.  “That’s exactly the kind of birthday cake I asked for when I was a kid,” I said.  “Chocolate and yellow swirled together. I haven’t had one in years.”

            Although my Grand didn’t know the kind of cake Mom made for my birthday, she knew about the glass plate. “What’s so special about THE plate?” Elsie’s younger sister asked. I told the story.

            When I was a little girl, Mom baked two-layer birthday cakes and served them on a glass cake plate.  I inherited the plate after Mom’s death and used it for birthday cakes too. For Dad’s 81st birthday, I baked his favorite yellow cake and frosted it with 7-Minute Icing just like Mom did.  To carry the cake to Dad’s house, I put it inside a plastic carrier with a handle and thought I had securely fastened the carrier top to the bottom.

            Just as I stepped into Dad’s house, I lost my hold on the cake carrier and when the cake plate slide sideways, the carrier opened.  The glass plate and cake fell onto Dad’s wooden floor, right beside his feet. The cake splattered. The plate broke into many pieces.  I cried.

            Dad consoled me saying the top part of the cake could be eaten and the plate wasn’t fine crystal.  He was sure Mom didn’t pay much money for it, and I could probably find another one somewhere.  My only thought was that I’d destroyed a part of every family birthday celebration.

            I rarely shop antique stores or junk stores or garage sales – the places where a 1950s glass cake plate might be available.  But for a year, I was on a mission to replace Mom’s plate and I walked through many stores and sales.  Finally, I spotted a plate, under a huge glass punch bowl, exactly like Mom’s.  Husband helped me move the bowl.  The plate didn’t have a price tag. “I wonder how much it cost,” I said.

            Husband answered, “It doesn’t matter.” The storeowner got cheated.  I gladly paid her price, $12, but I would have paid much more.

             A few months later, girlfriends and I went on a weekend trip. We walked and talked our way through several antiques stores.  “Look,” I said, “it’s another cake plate like Mom’s.  Remember?  The one I broke.”

            “Oh, that’s it?”  said Connie.  “I have one of those.  It doesn’t mean anything special to me.”  So, I bought a second plate for $15 and Connie gave hers to me.

            Now there are three cake plates in our family.  Daughter, Son, and I each have one.  THE birthday cake plate tradition continues.  And sometimes the cake on the plate is a surprise and sometimes it’s an old favorite. ####

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