Monica wasn't my mom. We weren't even blood relatives. But to say that she had a big influence on me is a gross understatement.
No, Monica wasn't my mom. She could never replace my own mother. But I always thought of Monica as mom away from mom; her house was my home away from home. When I was at her house, hanging out with my best friend, Stu, Monica always made me feel like I was part of the family. Always made me feel welcome.
I was invited to family dinners, whether eating in or going out. I was welcomed into the house for family movie night, eating cherry ice cream and laughing at bad films.
When Stuart's birthday came around, I was always invited over for cake. It was always the same cake: Angel food cake with a light-green frosting and tiny, multi-coloured sprinkles on top. That cake came to Stu every year that I knew him, growing up in his Parkwood Hills home. I came to expect it. I think that if any other cake showed up on the dining room table, I would have sworn I was in the wrong house.
That cake wasn't reserved for Stuart alone. His sister, Susan (Susie, or Suze, as I know her), also received a green-frosted Angel food cake; and because Suze and I shared the same birthday, I would often be invited to partake in the celebration and cake.
I loved that cake. And because I always associated Angel food cake with Monica, to this date I cannot think of eating one without thinking of Monica.
Three years ago today, July 25, after a sudden and brief illness, Monica passed away. I was with Stu and Suze when they said their goodbyes, honoured to be with the family in their most personal moment.
I still think of Monica, remember her down-to-earthness, her practical sense, her care for those in her life, and what a wonderful lady she was. She was a great mother to her kidsloved them unconditionally. And She was a wonderful mom away from my mom.
Today, on the third anniversary of her death, my wife and I stopped to remember Monica. We wanted to pay tribute to her in some small way. And so I thought: cake. Green cake.
Lori shared in the green Angel food cake only once, but she thought that baking one would be a nice gesture. And so she pulled out her baking pan. Made frosting. I offered her advice, telling her to add more blue and yellow food colouring until the shade was just right. Until the amount of coloured sprinkles was just right.
I have only ever eaten this cake at times of celebration, so we celebrated the memory of Monica. My girls remember Monica, of course, but I told them stories of the times I spent with Stu and his family. Of how I was made welcome. And of the warmth I felt when I shared in the cake.
Tonight's cake was for you, Monica. It was just how I remembered it.