When I was 4, I still lived in Berkeley near my four cousins. (It grew to 14!) My aunt Franny had three boys and she would always paint my nails pink and tell me how fun it would be to have a little girl. I ate this stuff up! My mom was not “girly” — no polish, no pink!
When I was 4, Franny talked Betty Jo, my mom, into throwing a birthday party for me even though my mother thought they were ridiculous — this was her being part beatnik, part “don’t-put-on-airs” Catholic, part “who-has-the-money-for-this-crap.” But Fanny’s enthusiasm and “charge it!” bravado was so contagious, the other sisters got into it: Aunt Molly approved, Auntie Pid approved, Aunt Tessie approved. Then Fanny got me a CIRCUS CAKE from The Eclair Bakery—- yes, the bakery on Telegraph with the big glass windows that never got trashed during the 60s riots.
We all had stared at this cake a million times, it was the fanciest cake EVER. Seeing that cake set up on our card table with a little tablecloth, in the single room apartment where we lived on McGee Street, was the first time I remember being thrilled out of my mind. It was as if, by *looking* at the cake, I was riding all the horses and hearing the music, the calliope. Like being at the Tilden Park merry-go-round, my favorite park. I completely transported myself.
When the cake-cutting began, I reached for a piece and my mom literally boxed my ears in front of all my cousins, “You are the host, you are the LAST to get a piece!” Terrible hot tears and shame. I don’t remember what happened next, but I dreamed of that cake over and over again, not how it tasted, but my fantasy that the ponies were going up and down and I was in the middle of it all. My circus cake looked exactly like the little music box you see below, which I met, last night.
55 years later or so...
I was staying at our friend Nancy’s house last night; it was on her desk, not like anything else in her house. She is also not the “pink” type, LOL. She took Jon aside and told him to take it and hide it and surprise me with it later! OMG, it’s like the happy birthday ending I didn’t have before. I LOVE YOU NANCY. Ponies and femmes and pink, forever.