Promises are meant to be kept, and I was keeping mine. My little sister Marion, younger than me by seven minutes, had made me promise that I would bring her a piece of my birthday cake since she would not be able to attend the party. That is why I was making the fifty mile drive from Leesburg to Wheaton, Maryland, with a big slice of my chocolate birthday cake.
Taking back roads going through Point of Rocks, Dickerson, and Barnesville, it was a scenic drive past farm stands, sheep, Sugarloaf Mountain, and tree canopied roads reminiscent of the Cotswold roads in rural England. Despite the 90 degree reading on my car thermometer, the car was comfortable with the windows down and the tree-cooled air flooding the car while memories of other birthdays meandered through my mind. As young children, we shared both our birthdays and our parties. Marion always wanted a chocolate cake, but I preferred coconut, so Mom always made two cakes for our parties. Those were good times.
Reaching Wheaton, I laid out a small picnic for us. Addressing Marion, I said theatrically, "I told you I would bring you a piece of my birthday cake. Have you ever seen a better looking slice of chocolate cake than this one? I bet not. I even have a candle for it," I said while lighting the candle and standing it in the chocolate icing.
"And dear sister, to accompany the cake, I have gone to great pains to procure this bottle of Coca-Cola for you. For me of course, being a man of the world, I have brought a split of brut champagne, with which I toast you and our shared birthday. And the piece de resistance, I bring to you this single red rose which is but a pale hint of your beauty. Just smell the fragrance. A touch of heaven is it not?
"I truly enjoy these visits on our birthday each year. It is important that we stay close to our memories so they remain memories and are not forgotten. And I can truthfully say that remembering our early years together brings me great joy.
“You ask of your nieces and your sister-in-law. I have indeed been the most fortunate of men. I cannot imagine a better match than I have with my wife, and I am lucky to walk by her side. Your namesake niece just finished college and is in the process of figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. I cannot imagine her being more perfect. She does well by your name. Dianne, the younger of the two, has just finished her sophomore year at George Mason. If it were not for the pandemic, I think she would be taking a gap year in Europe.
“And me? Ah, well, what is there to say? I read a lot, and I watch the news, and I am amazed at how different the world is from what it could potentially be. Other than that, there’s not much going on, except we will probably do some travelling back to England if the pandemic ever retreats.
“Oh, the candle has burned out, and your coke has grown warm. I note that dusk nears and I will soon have to take my leave.
“Do you count time where you are? Do you note that it is now forty years since meningitis took you at twelve?
“I remember vividly you in your hospital bed holding my hand. I could hardly see you through my tears, but I can still hear you asking me to promise you that I would bring birthday cake to you. I have kept that promise for forty years now, and I will see you again next year.”
I placed the rose on the plaque bearing her name, gathered up the detritus of my visit, and bade her goodbye.
About the author
Published author of three books: Ricky Pardue US Marshal, A Collection of Cleve's Short Stories and Poems, and Johnny Duwell and the Silver Coins, all available in paperback and e-books on Amazon. Over 160 Vocal.media stories and poems.