Saturday, June 25, 2011

Green Cake Day

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 kids—loved 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.


  1. Thanks Ross. I always loved those cakes, and was glad you were around to share them. Mum always enjoyed you as well, and if she were here she would be asking/ reminding/ nagging you to also have your veggies, in her fake German accent that she always reserved for asking you that specific question: vot, no veggies? And in honour of the green cake, she would also remind you that green cake does not count as a vegetable. I miss her.

  2. Isn't it funny the things we remember most? Many of my friends also have fond memories of the birthday cakes at my house. Mom always had a good chuckle over the excitement, because they were store-bought, boxed cakes that required virtually no work on her part except for the icing.

    One thing I will always be thankful for is that my parents were excellent at developing family rituals and traditions. As a teenager it just about drove me nuts, but as a child and as an adult, I have appreciated the rhythms and meanings behind these patterns. I hope to give my own children the same security and unconditional love that Douglas, Stuart and I were given in spades. For all their faults, I am convinced that both Mom and Dad were excellent parents, largely by instinct.

    Huge thanks to you and Lori for this lovely celebration of her. You will always be part of the family.

  3. Love the post and love the feedback from Stu and Sue.

    Sounds like a wonderful woman.

  4. I don't remember partaking of Monica's green cake but angel food cakes with peppermint icing was always my birthday cake of choice! I certainly remember the motherly advice offered to me when my brother and I showed up in the summer of 1979! I can still see her in her chair, coffee on the arm....