On the southwest side of Chicago during a frigid February afternoon in 1967, a small boy took a nap, setting in motion a chain of events that reverberated through five subsequent decades.
That boy, who grew up to be my husband Vince, may or may not have been a victim of a heartless crime, birthday cake theft.
BCT often goes unreported due to the victim’s reluctance to mention it, though such is not the case with my husband, who has been talking about the baffling disappearance of his three-year old birthday cake for the past 47 years.
“My mom made me take a nap,” the story goes. “And when I woke up, my brother and sisters had eaten my birthday cake.”
The tale, a sad one, indeed, led to a lifetime of apologies, extra birthday cakes, and extended celebrations, which begs the question: did the aforementioned crime actually happen?
Or, did a wily toddler with five older sisters and an older brother, ingeniously plot to secure his place in family lore?
Consider the witnesses: The Outlaw Mary Jane, cheerful bearer of seven children in her first eight and a half years of marriage; and the six siblings who, in times of stress and dinner summons, went by a single name Joan-Donna-Carol-Sharon-Steven-Elaine. Recall the chaos of the 1960s and the fact that not one person can recount the flavor of the cake.
I ponder the authenticity of the crime every February when the very specific requests roll in. “Will you make me a carrot cake with coconut cream frosting? You know, my brother and sisters ate my three-year old birthday cake.”
In the end, it probably doesn’t matter whether the crime actually took place or sprang from the active imagination of a petulant, precocious three-year old.
Just as Northfield, Minnesota needs its association with the Outlaw Jesse James, whether the James-Younger band actually robbed a bank in that tiny town or not, so, too, does the family need its three-year old birthday legend if, for no other reason, to spice up the dog days of February.
Happy birthday, Vince, may you and your legend enjoy 50 more sweet years.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know has been the victim of BCT, please know that there is help available for you. Contact your nearest bakery for a support group in your area.