Friday, May 22, 2015

38 and Dreaming (or A Cake I Decorated and a Book I'm Writing)

The computer went kaput before I could share my birthday cake here a couple weeks ago.  I seem to be regressing regarding birthday cakes, getting more of a kick out of them--my own and others'--the older I get:  Deciding on flavors, decorations, candles, and tablecloths for my birthday is a small thing I look forward to every spring now, although I didn't seem to pay much attention even in my early thirties.  The past few years, it's become a fun and reflective time for me, just as setting the table for Christmas breakfast before I go to bed on Christmas Eve has. 

The high temperature on my birthday this year was a humid 84°, so I decided just to mix up some pink buttercream and frost a ready-made ice cream cake.  And after a few minutes of wandering the store with my why-did-I-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-case-before-I-finished-the-rest-of-my-shopping cake, I finally hit upon what I wanted to use as this year's cake topper:  A truffle decorated like a nesting doll.  Her dreamy expression and heart-shaped lips charmed me and seemed appropriate for this birthday. 
While the newly-frosted cake was refreezing, I used pink acrylic paint, a light coat of glue, and a sprinkling of white sanding sugar to doll up a couple grocery store candles.  I only keep candles in cakes long enough for the pictures anyway, so why not jazz them up for the few seconds they'll last.  I stuck toothpicks into the candles' bases to make it easier to poke them into the frozen buttercream.  
A few hours later. . .eating and wish-making with Mr. Mike.  Ohhh, I want to have driven a lot more before my next birthday, although without owning a car, the amount of driving practice depends on how often we rent one.   And I hope to remain in good health and get back into running shape in the next couple years.    My biggest goal and dream for the year ahead, though, is to have finished writing a full first draft of the memoir of my 1980s childhood that I've been working on rather sporadically the past few years.   Memories of my family, house, friends, street, neighbors, pets, and teachers from those years make me light up like nothing else.  The more I write, the more I remember, and while my family and I have many old photos, I've also kept all the diaries I've written since the fourth or fifth grade, and they are detailed treasure troves of memories:  TV show theme songs, conversations with my parents, class projects, Christmas and birthday wishlists, first-day-of-school outfits, board games played with my brothers, paperbacks ordered from the school book order flyers, the athletes that thrilled and inspired during the Olympics, the first cassette tapes I ever owned, even a drawing of the view from my bedroom window circa 1987.  It is time to put all my notes and paragraphs together and get a rough draft finished.  At least a few of you here are published writers, and I hope my own dream of getting the memoir published as book comes true before too long.  

My family moved out of my childhood home in late 1988, when I was eleven-and-a-half, and I feel drawn to it like a magnet lately.  I haven't visited it since the day we moved, and I've always dreamed of it almost abnormally often, but even more-so this past year.  The night of Mike's dad's funeral in March, while we were staying at his parents' house, I had what began as a beautiful dream that my dad and I had gone together to visit our former street.  Oh, how I loved our little street!  It was a short no-outlet hill of a street hosting only seven homes.  And our former house!  I have loved few things in my life the way I loved that house.  I was so excited that I was about to see it all again, and Dad was humoring me.  As we turned the car up the short little hill, I was horrified to see that the street now looked like London's after the Blitz.  There was just enough of each house still standing to make it clear which one was which.  "My God," Dad kept saying, and remembering his voice even now hurts my heart.  I told him I wanted to walk around what was left of the house, and he said he'd seen enough and would wait for me outside.  I made my way into what had been our kitchen, and the dream got worse from there and soon ended, one of the worst nightmares I've ever had.  I was shaking when I awoke, and I'd somehow woken Mike with my fitful sleep during the dream.  "Tonight of all nights," I asked him, "Why would I have to dream something so horrible?"  Because his dad had just died?  Because I was thinking of my own?  Because with the death of one parent, that 80s childhood seemed especially Long Ago and Far Away and finishing the memoir felt that much more urgent?  All of the above, I'm sure, but the timing was cruel.  It took a long time that night to shake the feeling that I really had just been on that ravaged, silent street with Dad.  Four days after the funeral and nightmare, I dreamed that a woman asked me if she could publish my memoir.  "Yes, PLEASE!" I practically shouted in response.  Yes, I'm paying attention, Universe, and I'm connecting the dots. 

While I was home a couple weeks ago, I told Mom how much I wanted to visit "our" street, but from the glimpse of the house visible in the distance as we passed the hill, we could see the current owner in the driveway, and that wasn't the visit I wanted.  I will explore it all on my next visit, home, though, Current Owner in the Driveway or not, because it feels more necessary all the time, like I'm being pushed or pulled there.  

Before I left this last time, the subject of my sixth-grade science fair project came up while I was talking with my dad, and he said again, as he did a couple years ago, "I think now that those were the best years.  All you kids were still little, and Mum and Dad were still alive, and we were going to Ocean City every summer. . . ."  And this time when he said it, just like the first time he'd said it, I choked up at his words, and I wished more than ever that I could whip a hardcover copy of my memoir out from under the picnic table and say, "I think those were the best years too.  Here's a book I wrote about it."  The memoir really is, after all, a love letter to my parents.  Thirty-eight begins, then, with not only dreaming, but also writing.  What else could have topped my cake this year but a dreaming brunette with love on her lips?!  Surely, things are unfolding just as they should here, with death, nightmare, dream, conversation, and cake topper each showing up as they did.  Surely, my dream too can come true.  By the time I share my next birthday cake, I hope to tell you that I have a finished piece I can start submitting--however-many submissions it takes--for publication.   And oh!  Please, please let me have my handing-Mom-and-Dad-their-copies-of-my-book moment. 


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear, dear Val ~ What a lovely post! May your dreams come true, especially handing your folks a real live 'hard copy' of your memories, your love letter to them.

Your book will be beautiful.


P.S. I love your birthday cake, really sweet with the little face.

La Table De Nana said...

I think it is great that you have hopes and dreams:)
You did the will do the rest.
Cute cakes:)

You know..I went back to my childhood home..and rang the was at least 40 yrs after I had moved was an upper duplex..we left that home when I was 10..the lady let me in..:) When I looked out the back..that HUGE back yard of mine..was a postage stamp.
It had always been..just not in my child's eyes.
Bonne Chance!!

Marie Rayner said...

Another fascinating post Val. I love reading your thoughts and I love that you are writing a book about your childhood. Like Monique, I had the chance to go back to one of my childhood homes, many years later. Because my dad was in the airforce we had many homes. Like Monique, a world which had seemed to be so large as a child was really quite miniscule. It was bittersweet. Have a super weekend! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hello Val,

What a lovely, touching post. I think you will write your book and it is going to be wonderful! I hope you get to hand their personal copy to your Mom and Dad. What a great moment!

And I, too, loved the birthday cake with the sweet girl with heart shaped lips! So very you!

Bless you and this year ahead. I hope it turns out to be more than you could have ever even wished for.


Love to you, Birthday Girl!


Anonymous said...

"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."
~ Pablo Picasso

Hi Again Val,

I saw this quote today and thought of your drawing of your back yard from your childhood bedroom window. Sweet! You were keeping a diary in that way, too. : )

Love to you and wishes for a good day!

Val said...

Lorraine, thank you. ♥

Monique, thank you. I've heard that from so many people who go back--"It's so small!" Even about six months after finishing elementary/grade school, a few friends and I went back to it to visit our former teachers, and we already felt like giants in what had been our school just the season before. "Look how we have to bend to use the drinking fountain!! Look how short the desks and chairs our!!" :) Thank you. ♥

Marie, thank you. May your dreams come true too. ♥

Lily, yes, at least two kinds of diaries. :) Thank you for everything. ♥