Twenty years ago today, my mom filled on round pan with cake batter. When baked all the way through, she took the single layer out of the big white gas stove (with the built-in griddle in the center), cut it down the middle, frosted the half moon of cake and presented it to me with three candles, to celebrate my half birthday. I was young enough to get a huge kick out of it, but old enough to understand the importance. It made me feel special, celebrated and loved in a way that you don’t get every day, and often need more than once a year.
A couple of years ago I was home in Portland towards the end of June. My friend Akhri’s birthday is December 24th, and so it always gets rushed and pushed aside as Christmas comes barreling through. She was going through some rough times, and needed a little extra celebration. We invited her over for dinner and made the signature half cake that appears at most half birthday parties in my family. After dinner was finished, we told her we had a little surprise for her and brought out the cake. Her eyes filled with surprise, appreciation, and happiness.
The power of the half cake should not be abused and the half birthday should not be celebrated every year, so that the specialness and surprise of it can be reserved for those times when it is needed. Today is my half birthday, and there has been no celebration other than a very large plate of beets (they are a festive color, I should have put a candle in them). I am stunned that six months have passed since I celebrated my 26th birthday in Jen’s kitchen, with many friends, food from the Jamaican Jerk Hut and a chocolate cake from an Italian bakery in South Philly. I am not sad that there has been no half cake, life has been pretty good these days (despite lingering dissatisfaction with my job), and so I do not need to invoke the power of the half birthday. But its nice to know that its out there, when I need it.