It was supposed to be the best day of my life.
What unfolded on that day in June 2001 would go down as the most tormenting ordeal which still haunts me to this very moment.
This, dear reader, is the story of one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.
It’s almost 11 years to the day, but I remember it so clearly. My birthday. I had just breached into my teens.
I remember the unusually warm winter sun, the bright school day and the excitement of celebrating another year on earth. This story is all about what happened as my favourite day morphed into the most cringeworthy thing ever.
I sat towards the back of the hall in assembly (as seniors of primary school do) when one of my teachers tapped me on the shoulder and told me that my cake had arrived. It was a nice touch from my mother: to have it delivered mid-morning so I could celebrate with my classmates.
It turns out she had called the local bakery down the road from our school, and they delivered it in good time.
It was the period just before first break. Our class had media studies in the library and my cake arrived, held gloriously aloft by our teacher. A marvelous confectionery delight.
It was a massive, rectangular creation and was totally covered in white icing sugar. The bakers had nestled it in a box and I remember a blown-up, clear plastic cover engulfing the whole thing.
I beamed with pride.
Then came the mandatory high-pitched chants of “Happy Birthday”. Then the “hip-hip hoorays”. And then… the big moment.
Everyone watched as I slowly made the first cut (and the wish). Then our teacher took over and sliced it up for all of us. My classmates eagerly lined up and slowly scattered as they each started tucking into their slices.
This is so hard for me to write… but…
There was a large, green patch in the middle of the cake.
It was mould.
“Ah, sies!” said a scrawny classmate as I stared in disbelief at what had instantly turned into the most disgusting thing on the school premises.
The cake was rotten. My birthday cake was mouldy!
Can. You. Imagine?
I can’t believe I’m telling you this.
I stood there in complete shame as my classmates brought unfinished slices back to the table. The period had ended.
Everyone trudged out while I was left to digest the sheer humiliation of what just unfolded. By the end of the school day, the rest of the grade sevens knew.
“How could they do this to me?”
“How could the bakery dump their stone-age cake on me? On MY birthday!?”
My mother launched an angry tirade at them but it was not enough. No replacement cake (which was sent the next day) could take back the shame I endured. I didn’t even want to have a make-up cake sesh with my mates. I was just so over it.
The next day, depressed in the assembly line, I stood in silence – barely able to look anyone in the eye.
The same girl who yelled in disgust the previous day was not about to let this slide. “Why did you try give us ro-” she was stopped by an elbow to her stomach. Her friend didn’t think it was appropriate for her to be asking that.
She didn’t need to finish her sentence. I knew the rest of it. “Rotten cake”. Why did I try and give them rotten cake?
That, my dear friends, is the eternal question. And that is why that birthday will haunt me forever.
There’s nothing therapeutic about this Awkward Childhood series. It’s just so you know the stories that shaped my madness.