another birthday

Tomorrow we should be celebrating. In my old life, right about now I’d be baking vanilla cake layers to adorn with chocolate buttercream and finish with a thin layer of chocolate ganache. The recipe was based on one from College Bakery, now long shuttered. The first time Mikey tasted that cake he fell in love with it. There was nothing fancy about it really just a basic cake, but they were always made fresh and were ridiculously inexpensive, something like $5 for a whole cake.

It was a cake we often had for my own birthday when I was a kid. My mother ordered the same cake for my baby shower when I was pregnant for Isabella. I ordered that same cake for Isabella’s first birthday party to keep the tradition going. Eventually, Mikey began requesting I make the cake for his birthday. Some years I would tell him I wasn’t making the cake just to torment him. Really it was in protest because I never got a homemade cake for my birthday. Every year I would plead for him to just get a box of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker and make me one with the kids. I told him it didn’t matter if it was homemade or from a box, I just wanted to feel like someone cared enough to bake me a cake for my birthday.

I always gave in, though, and made him that beloved cake. I should be making it tomorrow. February 7th would’ve been his 53rd birthday. It sounds crazy to utter his age because to me 53 sounds like an old guy, and Mikey was full of so much life. He had so much more left to do. He could out do me in pretty much any physical activity, and yet it turns out I was the healthier one in the end. There’s a line from a Matthew Sweet song that keeps echoing in my head…

we are not

so many worlds apart

I am through

but you are at the start

The song, for the most part, isn’t as sweet and sincere as these few lines, but still, as I listened to it in the car the other day, I felt like he was trying to reassure me that moving forward is okay. That it’s a necessity I can no longer fight within myself. As each day passes, logic would tell me the pain of missing him should soften. And yet, it gets harder, like a knife burying itself in my heart.



  • Marisa P

    My heart aches for you. Those lyrics were so perfect. I’m thinking of you, as i always do….and hoping you have the strength to get through tomorrow. I have no doubt that you will. xoxoxox

  • Ginavon

    A beautiful post with memories of cake and happiness. He must be smiling down and nudging you on to finding more of the greatness you have within. Admiring the love of each word you chose for this post. Far away smiles and hugs.

  • andrea

    Your honestly never fails to astound me. I’d make the cake and eat all of it myself but maybe not the best way to cope. Thinking of you at this difficult time.

  • Sandy Speed

    I often feel a kinship with you through your writing. I feel your sadness, your warmth, your sincerity, honesty, and love through your posts. Today I must confide that your vanilla cake with chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache is also my home baked and decorated wedding cake that I lovingly made for my husband and friends and served at my wedding picnic. It is truly a cake of warm memories of our shared happiness that day. I will never make that cake again that I don’t remember you, Mike, and the girls, and how blessed I am to be still surrounded by my loved ones. Please continue to make that glorious cake, for your heart. I think Mike would want you to feel his love when you are baking his cake for your family. I wish blessings and feelings of comfort and joy for you as you keep Mike in your heart and memories as your life goes on, my friend.

  • Susan R

    Jennie, when I was widowed it was so hard not to be someone’s special person. I had two children, too. On birthdays, including mine, I would take them shopping to buy me presents, and I would get their help in making me a cake until they were old enough to want to do it themselves. It taught them the joy of giving. Maybe you can do that with the girls on occasions like your birthday, and for each other. As for the pain, I am very happily remarried and it is almost 14 years since my husband died, and sometimes that knife still twists inside, but now oddly I take comfort in that, knowing that I feel it still because we really were in love. Happy birthday to Mikey! BTW, my husband would have turned 60 this coming August, and I am planning a party for his close friends and family to remember him. We will spread the last of his ashes at the beach he loved, then go to a restaurant we loved to remember him, and finally, I am going to dedicate a bench in the playground next door to my current house in his memory and that of our daughter, who died shortly after birth. My current husband supports my desire to do all of this. I hope as the years past that you and the girls will remember Mikey in your own special ways. Wishing you comfort and healing today.

  • Maria in NJ

    please forgive me for disagreeing…sometimes we have to agree to disagree…but Mickey’s time here was fulfilled, he was put here for a reason and when he fulfilled those commitments his time was over…he moved on to the next chapter…Jenny I had a love like that, I know how you feel, it does not get any easier, I miss him still and it has been over 30 years, I still cry when he comes into my thoughts…still

  • Tracey A

    Morning Jennie,
    Make the cake…. Slice and freeze the pieces and take one out and eat it when you need a happy memory. Embrace and taste and remember, but smile. It will be bittersweet, but jump for joy at the memory of the chance you had to make the beautiful girls and such nice memories. COOK! Go plant a flower in his memory and go do some good. Take you beautiful cooking to a rest home and visit some of those lonely people who don’t have anybody. Spread your beauty around. You are strong and worth it! Share yourself. You have come a LONG WAY, BABY! Remember that. Mikey loves how you have done it too. You have a lot to share, a lot to give, and a lot to remember.
    Don’t forget it, girl. You live too far away for me to come over and yank you out of bed, so don’t make me do it. (work doesn’t like me leaving for long extended periods of time.)
    Sunshine, smiles hugs and recipes,
    Now go cook that cake and post it!
    XX Tracey

  • Carolyn

    Sending good thoughts your way today.
    Read this upon waking this morning and had a little cry for you and your family.
    Thinking of all of you and admiring your quiet strength through it all.

  • Lenny

    As I’m reading this, my computer is playing through random songs I have loaded in it. I got to the part where I find out Mikey was my age and would have been 53 today and Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend comes on. As I continue to read I see you quote another song by Sweet. Chills just ran down my spine! I admire your strength not only during this special day but throughout this trying time. Now The Cranberries Dreams just came on. May all you Dreams come true ­čÖé

  • Jennifer Perillo

    LennyÔÇönow I’m the one who has chills. Girlfriend is the first CD Mikey ever gave me. And I love Dreams, damn I miss the Cranberries.

  • clark

    Have been following your site ever since Mikey’s premature departure. Perhaps in lieu of celebrating his birthday as an sole entity, share the celebration of his birthday by making a birthday cake or cakes and taking them to a children’s cancer center at a local hospital that specializes in children’s cancers or diseases, or perhaps a church based home for orphans. Am sure Mikey would have loved to have shared his birthday cake not only with you and your family but with other children who need some happiness in their lives. Just a thought. Take care Jennie

  • mp

    recently found your site. love what you share and your transparency. may God grant you comfort and strength during this difficult season.