Once you hit the 40s, birthdays become kind of annoying. That's 40 years of cake and ice cream. Sometimes you want a change. I found myself making cake yesterday for Keith's birthday, ruminating that he doesn't like cake or frosting and would have one piece out of politeness and then leave the whole thing for me to deal with (not as enticing as it seems since my body is in "hoarding middle-age" mode--no doubt an evolutionary response to getting older and trying not to starve to death when the younger more robust villagers start neglecting to feed me).
We do cake yearly because Jackson LOVES the ritual of the candles and the singing and the wishing. He doesn't like eating it otherwise. Lately he doesn't like most every food other than Corn Flakes. But the ritual he loves. So I make the cake and stare at it balefully every day afterward before throwing most of it away. My mom had the brilliant idea of cupcakes, which can be stored briefly or frozen (or given away to grateful neighbors and school chums), so I went with that this year. Keith still didn't have one because someone at work gave him a humongous M&M-encrusted brownie for lunch. But the ritual remains charming. So anyway, cupcakes.
I share because sometimes (most times) I find myself wondering and questioning all the ritual things we do out of obligation. Especially when they're kind of pointless, like making cake for people who don't like cake. Jackson's brilliant preschool teacher taught me that ritual is really important for families and friends. It gives continuity to otherwise uncontrollable life events, and establishes close ties and bonding. Plus they're (in theory) fun. And I admit, singing "Happy Birthday"(TM) and blowing out candles in a darkened room while camera bulbs flash, is fun. Happy birthday, Keith. Happy birthday to you.