Sam turned 20 on November 4th. She asked me to get her a cookie cake (which we do every now and then). So I got her a Mrs. Field’s cake with balloons on it (made of frosting, of course) and with the text comprised of LSU colors spelling out “Happy 20th Birthday, Sam”. She loved it. It was a nice day. The next day I had work. When I came home I saw the red cookie cake box sitting on the counter and I peeked inside to see how much was left and I saw one piece. But what I saw about that one piece took my breath away! I opened the box further and examined the oddly-shaped piece of cookie cake. It’s hard to call it a cake because it is just one big, fat cookie. So the last piece looked more like a slab rather than a piece, which was shaped a bit like the state of Texas, and was completely lacking the only requirement I’ve ever thought was needed on the last piece of a birthday cake, the “H”.
So where this comes from is from the birthday cakes and celebrations that we (Jen and I) had when we were little. Of course, cookie cakes were not heard of yet and the only cake anyone ever really wanted (in our circles anyway) was chocolate doberge cake baked by Mrs. Ledner. It just happens to be a recipe that was developed by the owner of the bakery my dad did business with (yes, Mrs. Ledner) which also takes on some baking techniques from France. (The history of this cake is compelling if you’re interested.) Now you can get doberge cake in a couple of different bakeries but it’s still not as easy to find as a regular layer cake with buttercream frosting only. The tradition that was started somewhere before Jen and I came into being was the superstition regarding the “H”. And, just to be clear, this superstition has nothing to do with what kind of cake is served. Doberge just happened to be the cake that we always got. When you serve a birthday cake with the writing on the cake that reads “Happy Birthday”, it is said that the piece with the “H” residing on it should only be cut and eaten as the last piece of the cake. I have yet to find out what the consequences are for disregarding this practice. All I heard growing up was that it was “Good Luck” to follow the rule. Dad had lots of rules. Some of them I’m sure you’ve heard of. You know… never put a hat on the bed, don’t walk under a ladder, don’t open an umbrella in the house, never grab the salt shaker directly from someone’s hand (they must put it down first, and then you pick it up), if you spill salt you must toss the spilled bit over your left shoulder, try not to step on cracks in the sidewalk, stay away from black cats, and NEVER cut the “H” on the birthday cake until you have to!
So when I saw that Sam had somehow given up the “H” at the inappropriate time for her cake’s life, I took issue! I knew that this upset me because this is something that is strictly tied to my dad and his side of the family and I’m still missing him tremendously. I’ve never heard anyone with this superstition before, like I said, but my grandmother was a big believer as well and it seemed that a lot of people we touched along the way have adopted this little ritual. It upset me because I wanted to keep Dad’s traditions going long after his physical presence had disappeared. It occurred to me like Sam had forgotten all about it. Sam and Josh have both been raised with the “Don’t cut the ‘H'” rule. I just wonder how she abandoned it so freely. Unless she had a friend over who didn’t know any better, and she took a piece of cake while she visited. It appears that that is exactly what happened. Nothing untoward happened to Lexi (her friend) or to those of us standing in the peripheral wings. So…. is it superstition that we crave? Or maybe we make up the “luck” that the action brings in order to keep a semblance of those we love (either loved ones or just good times in the past). Perhaps I don’t cut the “H” because I just want to honor my dad. It really does sound a bit insane to scream and wave your hands wildly as your family member gets ready to cut a piece of birthday cake dreadfully close to the oh-so-important “H”! Use those superstitions as another way to remember those we love so much. When I sit down to a meal, I remember dad whenever I need to add salt. When I come in to the bedroom after watching the Saints game I don’t take my Saints hat off near the bed because of my dad’s memory. In a way, they comfort me. My relationship with my dad was so rich and I have so much to remember (astoundingly–as I’m seemingly losing more and more every day memories each day). This is all just part of our family culture. It’s something that binds us. It allows us to express ourselves and remember where we came from. I guess I’m not as superstitious as I thought I was. So when it’s Josh’s birthday in March how will we handle that….? We will protect the “H” with everything we’ve got and in that way, Dad will be there with us having his vodka-on-the-rocks-with-an-olive while we celebrate Josh turning 18. He will be so proud!!