I want to make an extravagant birthday cake that I won’t eat. The grief always comes like this: a gait brought on by overwork. On her birthday, I stand up and look around at this life without her. My palms come round to my hips and I creak into question. Perhaps the sugar and flour will bring her back. The warmth of the oven. The lick of chocolate icing, like the hand whipped fudge on her last birthday cake. It was the last cake that didn’t come from a cardboard box in aisle seven. The last cake, crowned with yellow roses and stuck with an eternal, waxy three. I didn’t eat it and neither did she. She could no longer swallow. Early on, it was milk from my breast, thickened bone broth, or a spoon of just right baby oatmeal. Later, nougat-coloured formula fed through a snaking tube into her jejunum. We let her taste the turquoise buttercream on her first birthday. We hoped.
For so long, she was a visitor. My dead daughter there on the wings of a Mourning Cloak, there on velvety petals, there in the trilling. I would wander into the forest, deftly chasing specimens.
I know where to find her now. She’s on the bookshelf, next to the vinyl.
The cakes don’t conjure her. So I buy them—chocolate or cheese or sprinkled. The plastic dome winces open as I feed her siblings a memory. I see her in their hazel eyes, their Chiclet teeth, the grimy smudge of store bought crumbs in the nicks of their lips.
I would eat the cake if she could.
Michaela Evanow lives, gardens and writes by the sea in British Columbia with her husband and three small kids. Life makes sense in the garden, so on a good day, her fingers are covered in dirt and she’s collecting seeds. Her work has appeared in Five Minutes. You can find her on Instagram at: @michaela.evanow.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/lokate366
The subject of this piece was enough to take my breath away. But then the richness and precision of the language (“the plastic dome WINCES open”), the matter-of-fact tone that comes with grief…wow. Brilliant. Thank you.