SUBSCRIBE NOW Just 99¢ for your first month

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Getting excited about birthdays again can lead to disappointment

Columnist Dan Conradt says he still remembers the birthday cake that never was.

Dan Conradt column sig
We are part of The Trust Project.

I hadn’t been so excited about my birthday since the year I turned 10 and had accidentally discovered that there was a G.I. Joe space capsule hidden in the back of mom’s closet.

THAT was a birthday to remember, but nothing like this.

This year I’d get a cake.

Cake was a birthday tradition in our house. Mom would make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and decorate it with candy letters and the appropriate number of candles. She’d light the candles once the supper dishes were cleared away; the family would sing an off-key version of the Happy Birthday song and the cake would be served with vanilla ice cream.

I wasn’t expecting a song or a G.I. Joe space capsule on my 22nd birthday, but I was expecting a cake.

ADVERTISEMENT

Not a Mom cake. An office cake.

There was a tradition at work that an employee’s birthday would be celebrated with a cake, and my 22nd birthday would be my first office cake. But in the weeks leading up to my birthday, the tradition had come to represent something much more than a cake; it was confirmation that I was part of the team … doing a job, earning a paycheck, making my own way. Being an adult, even if, for one day, at least, I felt like a 10-year old.

I smelled the cake even before I saw it, and knew that one of my co-workers had stopped at the bakery on the way to the office.

Also Read
Columnist Dan Conradt says our paths had gone in different directions. And I was suddenly very thankful for the path I’d taken.
View "slice of life" photos from around the area.
Sometimes, when things don’t go according to plan, we lose faith, not only in ourselves but also in any potential outcome in our lives.

I was glad I wore a clean shirt.

The office workers were at their desks when I walked through the lobby: “Good morning,” I said a little too cheerfully. Someone answered a phone and someone else was punching numbers into an adding machine. I passed between two desks and stepped into the break room.

If a birthday cake can be a work of art, there was art sitting on the counter. It was covered with delicate frosting flowers and sprinkled with colorful candy confetti.

Across the top of the cake, a ribbon of frosting spelled out "Happy birthday, Roscoe!"

Wait … what? Roscoe?!

ADVERTISEMENT

I looked around to see if I’d missed a second cake, maybe a bigger one that said something like, oh, I don’t know, “Happy Birthday, Dan.”

Nope. Just one cake.

Happy Birthday, Roscoe.

I was still trying to understand the cake when the workers in the adjoining office sang out “Happy birthday, Roscoe!”

“Thanks, guys,” my co-worker Roscoe said. He stepped into the break room, then poked his head back into the office: “Wow! Thanks for the cake.”

“Happy birthday, Roscoe,” I said, trying to hide my disappointment as he slid the first piece of cake onto a plastic plate.

“Thanks,” he said, licking frosting from his finger. “25 today. I’m getting old.”

Two nights later my mom cleared the supper dishes and carried a chocolate cake to the table. The cake had one candle … Mom joked that 22 candles would be a violation of the fire code … and my family sang “Happy Birthday” off-key.

ADVERTISEMENT

I was cutting my second piece of cake … I took the “H” from the candy letters that spelled out “Happy Birthday, Dan” … when Mom asked, “Did they do anything for your birthday at work?”

“Nope.”

Mom and Dad gave me a very nice dress shirt and said I should wear it to work on Monday, and for an hour we lingered over cake and coffee.

It might have been the best birthday ever.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

Related Topics: PEOPLEDAN CONRADT
What to read next
Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.
Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.
Columnist Loren Else says America is the land of the free thanks to brave souls such as Bill Hollander.
Highlights of events in 1997, 1972, 1947 and 1922.