Is there anything in the world more delightful than this sweet, juicy, mouth-watering, totally addicting (yes, addicting!), delicious and invigorating fruit? I definitely don't think so.
Growing up, I was never interested in fruits of any kind. One of my earliest memories is of my father walking through the door carrying cartons filled to the brim with every type of produce imaginable and my mother worrying about the uneaten delights potentially spoiling in her kitchen. My 7 year-old mind could not comprehend why anyone would willingly choose to eat these over the multitude of sugar-laden treats readily available.
Fast forward a couple decades (and 2.5 children) later to my third pregnancy when my body began to crave items entirely grown from earth. I frequented stores I'd never previously even noticed only to try new things. I found myself constantly going back for strawberries, consuming anywhere between 2-4 lbs within days. Addicted? Definitely.
The baby from that pregnancy turns 9 this week. No surprise that she came into this world with a strong love for my much loved reds. Needless to say, we constantly fight over that last berry! I make it a point to incorporate these into her birthday cake each year. Celebrating her special day this way allows me to also secretly honor my father's birthday which coincidentally happens to be this week as well. Over the years, I have come to realize how this baby's birth has stirred decades worth of bottled-up emotions within me simply by changing what I was desiring to eat, inevitably jogging suppressed childhood memories, especially those of my father and his foodie tendencies.
I enjoyed being daddy's little girl. He prayed for a daughter when most wished for sons. He was the only one who truly understood my need for solitude and how it was perfectly natural for us to be able to spend quality time enjoying each others company in absolute silence. In our time together, we learned that we both shared a strong love for horses, the complexity of numbers, and traveling the world through books. His love was unlike others. When he saw me reacting to watermelon as a toddler, apparently something I truly enjoyed, he would wake in the middle of the night to pray specifically for this. It worked; within days, the allergy was gone. This was my father. It is true what they say about a girl's first love. Only a father can love a girl with that much heart.
Often I wonder if things would have been different had he been alive today. Would I be the same person I am today or would I have taken life for granted by having the privilege of growing up in a "normal" household? While I cannot answer these questions, what I can say is that I came to quickly understand the value of life and how anything could change at a moment's notice. Those events early in my life left me feeling like I was lost in a dark maze and to this day I am working on finding my way out.
My last interaction with my father was such: he was standing in a doorway waiting for me to hug him, to say goodbye, but I was too angry to care. He was leaving on a trip (for medical procedures I knew very little of) with my mother and older brother while my younger brother and I were to stay with relatives. I could not understand why he would agree to this if it meant leaving behind his "favorite child". Deeply hurt and upset, I let it show. Little did I know, though, this would be my last moment with him, he was to pass away days later in a city far from home.
Heart. His stopped. Mine broke.
I spent much of my preteen years dreaming he was still alive. I often dreamt he would surprise me by just showing up somewhere, anywhere. That the plans he and I had made just a few weeks before his sudden passing would finally happen. Surely this was all just a bad dream, I was bound to wake up soon.
Only recently have I begun to come to terms with his absence in my life; my wedding, my babies, their first steps, countless graduations, and so on. I know in my heart now that he is not far, that he is aware of the things I desperately want to share with him, like how his eldest grandchild shares his love for animals, how strikingly his grandson resembles him each time he smiles, or how his littlest granddaughter's fascination with the outdoors is so like his. Knowing he is in a better place is the only assurance that life is good. I am learning what it means to live life to the fullest, to enjoy every minute of everything, to celebrate all the big things and all the little things, to forgive quickly, and to love those in my life with everything I have. In the end, this is all that matters.
Happy birthday to my dear father and my sweet, spunky wild child.
For those who have lost loved ones, this song has been a source of healing when I am struggling to find my way through that dark maze. I hope it brings peace to anyone in need.
"But I got through all the pain when I truly accepted that
Berry Overload Birthday Cake:
Layer cake: (I doubled this to make a 4 layer cake)
1 ½ cups softened butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8 oz package cream cheese)
¼ cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 8 inch pans with parchment, butter bottom and sides. Cream butter, sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Add eggs one at a time. Mix dry ingredients and fold them into butter mixture. Divide between pans and bake for 9-10 mins until set.
Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add vanilla. Then sugar.