On Birthdays, Fathers, and the Queen of England

“Oh My Ears and Whiskers, How Late It’s Getting!” At least, like Alice’s White Rabbit, I am consistent in running late. I’ve been trying to sit down and write this post for four days.

dad's 86th birthdayOn April 21, my father, James George Baily, would have turned 86. As I have done for a few years, I baked a drop-dead cake in his honor. It’s an ill-named, heavy pound cake, baked in a loaf pan, often made with raisins, though in deference to my current household, I made it with chocolate chips. Here it is, with a blue candle the color of my father’s eyes. It is often served with butter and jam or even clotted cream and jam. It is easy to make, takes an hour to bake, and is not too sweet. When I am stirring the ingredients together, tasting the batter, and baking the cake, I think of my dad and try to feel his presence. Sometimes, for no reason I can determine, the cake comes out not quite baked through in the middle. Not this year. This year, it was baked perfectly, which is to say dense and moist and delicious. He must have given me a helping hand.

Queen Elizabeth IIApril 21 is also the birthday of Elizabeth, II, Queen of England. She is going strong and turned 90 this year. She has seen a lot, lived a lot, and still seems to enjoy life, never looking weary. This unfortunately is not a photo of her on her and my dad’s birthday. This is a public domain shot from 2015. Still, she hasn’t aged much in a year so fast forward her to 2016 and you have her birthday photo; this year, she wore a pale green outfit.

In any case, growing up, we always appreciated the fact that my dad and the Queen had the same birthday, the cockney and the royal. As a story, it’s been done, but as a real life tale, it still gives me a little shiver to think of my grandmother and the Queen Mother on the same day a few years apart giving birth to their little royals. According to my aunts and uncles, my father, as the eldest boy in his large family of nine siblings, was in fact treated like a little prince by his mother.

Honestly, there was something about the man that just made one want to coddle and pamper him. Even as his daughter, I felt that. He never asked for it, and he was always very appreciative. And the cool thing about my dad was how he loved the simpler things as well as the finer — “tasting” a few grapes in the supermarket or sitting at the table waiting for over-medium fried eggs on buttered toast or eating a really good broiled chicken, they all brought him immense pleasure, as did a luxury hotel with a thick bathrobe and a fine Italian suit.

So I’m indulging in a little nostalgia this April and thinking of my wonderful dad, whom I miss every day. And I’m inviting you to cherish your fathers. Maybe bake him a cake, even if it’s not his birthday. You can always wish him a very merry unbirthday, as did Alice’s Mad Hatter.

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