2008.11.12 It all adds up: birthdays are a time to eat cake

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I’ve been in love with my husband from the moment I first laid eyes on him 30 years ago this month. Well, actually, I’m not so sure it was this month. It was a warm month in the fall of 1978 when Michigan State was playing its homecoming game in Spartan Stadium and the crowd was so loud, I was driven from my studying location on the banks of the Red Cedar into the stacks of the Main Library.

I came downstairs for some reason or another and bumped into David’s brother Thom, who said he wanted to introduce me to someone. And there, between the card catalogues and the main Circulation Desk, Cupid struck me down.

He was 28 then and I was going on 21. On Sunday, he turned 58. I have been sweating it this year, the year he was 57. Fifty-seven is my bad number, you might recall. Fifty-seven always portends something bad. Eventually it turns out fine, but anything involving the number 57 usually gives me some sort of problem.

I realized sometime in the day of his birthday that this is a significant time. Not only has the dreaded 57 passed, he turned 58, which is the same number as the year I was born. And, at age 50, I share, for just a couple more months, the number of the year he was born.

That seems like a momentous coming together of numbers in the same vein that turning 20 when your birthday is Sept. 20 (sorry, Ben) or 15 when your birthday is Dec. 15 (sorry, Maddie) is cause for celebration.

I don’t remember when Rozee told me about that notable birthday (called the Golden or Grand or Star Birthday), but with a March 31 birthday, she stands a better chance of having it duly recognized.

On Sunday, I knew it must be an auspicious occasion when our friends Deby and Rich were available to meet us for brunch in Ann Arbor on very short notice, Maddie was willing to get up early on a Sunday morning and join us and the restaurant Deby suggested was one I’d never been to nor heard of.

Cafe Zola was so good, I’m ready to make up any pretense to visit Maddie just so I can eat there. It’s so rare that I choose menu items that I’m happy with compared to my dining companions. Usually, I stew that I made a bad choice and mumble and grumble throughout the meal. Instead of just being happy with what I’ve got, I covet my neighbor’s quiche, wish for her waffle, pine for his pancakes.

But this restaurant that escaped my attention for, lo, these past 12 years, served the most delectable of everything that I ordered. Rosemary potatoes perfectly salted, crisp on the outside, soft in the center; a crepe spread inside with strawberry butter, sprinkled with powdered sugar...I just close my eyes still and say, “Ummmmm,” contentment carried over from Sunday. And scrambled eggs—the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had—with the essence of I don’t know what.

I wanted to experience this kind of gastronomic pleasure more often. I pointed to our intertwined 58/50 alignment of numbers and suggested we observe this momentous occasion.

“We should celebrate every day for the next two months,” I told David.

I started almost as soon as we left the restaurant, after we dropped Maddie off at her dorm, when I spied individual slices of chocolate cake at the food coop—“La Bete Noire” the label said. It looked like chocolate cake to me. The ingredients—bittersweet chocolate, free range eggs, whipping cream, butter, sugar—sounded like a winning combination. I glossed right over the ingredients known to put on the pounds and said, “Hmm, free range eggs.” Sounded healthy to me.

La Bete Noire. This particular combination of French words sounds better in French than its meaning in English—dark beast—and refers to an object or abstract idea that causes fear or has the potential to cause large harm. That would be the pounds on my hips.

But, hey, for the next two months, I will celebrate and not worry about the pounds piling on.

And, if I make it through my 57th year, I will be 58—the same number as the year of my birth. Great cause for prolonged celebration in my book: Golden, Grand and Star Birthday all wrapped up in one. I will want a big party with lots of bete noire and in attendance, of course, David, who will be 66...one six short of the number of the beast.

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