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Super-Secret Ingredient

(Listen Here)

Maybe age is only a number, and perhaps it isn't. Ask me how I feel about it when I'm really old, like forty or fifty or something. All I know is that whenever a birthday rolls around, I get some fantastic chocolate cake my mother whipped up. Eventually, the seventies will become the eighties, and before I know it, the world will change, but one thing will forever remain constant. Chocolate cake will always be the most delicious cake ever devised.

I've had some pretty outstanding desserts within my short life. The cake is the best reason to go to another kids' party, but there is never a guarantee it'll be the right kind. I can't figure out why someone would choose anything other than chocolate when they can pick whatever flavor they'd like. Forget about weddings because those are never good. They're kind of pretty, but every time that knife goes in, it's some white or yellow cake. It's supposed to be a special day, but I guess it isn't that special after all.

The worst is when adults mess with your head. Anyone above the age of ten can not be trusted because they're ticky. Nothing is worse than salivating over a giant mound of goodness covered in dark frosting, only to discover that some dry yellow sponge hides beneath, ready to disappoint. Grown-ups can be monsters. Biting into an oatmeal raisin cookie, thinking its chocolate chip comes in at a close second. These tragic moments can easily turn into sleepless nights.

Sometimes everything looks right. The frosting is nice and chocolaty, the cake is the perfect shade of mocha, and even the ice cream is delightfully fudgy. One bite quickly tells me that looks can indeed be deceiving. It's like my mother has some super-secret ingredient and no one else on earth is aware. I've never once witnessed her wave a magic wand or sprinkle any kind of magical dust all over the birthday cake. Why can't anyone else bake a cake as wonderful as my mother's?

A giant table sits still and empty, but don't let the lifeless wooden structure fool you. If it could talk, the stories that old piece of furniture could paint would leave you with an art gallery full of portraits floating around inside your mind. All of the Christmas dinners, Thanksgivings, Easter egg paintings, homework, and occasional arguments would provide a book with more than a thousand chapters. And of course, we can't forget birthdays.

First, Mom gently throws her signature white tablecloth into the air, and it bubbles up like a parachute before landing perfectly on the unique table. Next, the themed paper plates are stacked next to enough forks and spoons for all of my friends and cousins who will attend. She lines up balloons and Dum-Dums so each guest will have something to take home. My favorite green Kool-Aid chills in the refrigerator while the extra chocolaty chocolate chip ice cream stays frozen in the icebox. Then she places my cake in the center of the table she'd made the day before.

Soon everyone will arrive with gifts, and they'll sing happy birthday before I fill my lungs with enough air to blow out each candle successfully. Mom will laugh and sing along with the rest of us on this special day. Afterward, she'll clean up, put everything back in its place and never complain once or even expect a thank you. Every year she proves love is way more powerful than a magic wand or enchanted fairy dust, and it makes the perfect secret ingredient.

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