Memoir Contest Winner: Cut the Cake by Deborah Gilson

by Matilda Butler on October 6, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #123 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

Women’s Memoirs presents the last of our award-winning contest entries for our April Memoir Writing Contest. Deborah Gilson’s story receives an Honorable Mention – in our Memoir Writing Contest — APRILS PAST, April Birthdays category. Congratulations Deborah. You did a beautiful job of presenting your story as it occurred 46 years ago as well as your present day reflection.

We want to pass on that Deborah has also written this story in a children’s format for Hu-Manimals, her children’s book and has self-published four memoirs.


by Deborah Gilson

It was my fifth birthday. Mom headed to work in the city after dropping Ross, my four-year-old brother, and me off at nursery school. From the instant I awoke, I waited for the day to end. At nursery school I told Crystal, the most beautiful little black girl ever, I had a cake coming that night after dinner.

Debbie and Ross, 1965

Debbie and Ross, 1965

The magic moment arrived for my mother to pick Ross and me up from nursery school. On the front passenger seat of our red Volvo station wagon, I saw my cake box. I asked Mom if she could drive home a little faster. Looking at me from her rear view mirror, she said she would try.

Ross pulled a funny trick on the way home and began making siren noises while we crouched on the floorboard of the back seat. Ross told her she was speeding and would probably get a ticket. Mom pulled the car over to the side of the road and waited. When no police car appeared, she heard our muffled giggles. Reaching her 12-foot-long arm into the back seat, Mom could not grab either of us. Exhausted from another day’s work as a single mother, she slowly put the pedal to the metal and continued the drive home.

Standing in our tiny kitchen, my mother asked me, the birthday girl, what I wanted for dinner. With tremendous excitement, I declared, “Dinner shot out of a cannon!” This meant breakfast-style food for dinner, the fastest meal in town.

After dinner, Ross and I cleared the dishes from the kitchen table; my grand event finally arrived. Out of the box came an elegant, small lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. The edges were lined in pink and yellow rosettes. My mother intentionally handed me a spatula, instead of a knife, and said I could cut the cake. My mother began washing the dishes; thankfully, her back was turned away from Ross and me.

With Ross standing as close as possible, I held up the spatula as a sword for his big blue eyes to see, translating my deafening non-verbal message, “Don’t you even think about coming near my cake!” Without saying a word, my mother sensed my selfish and greedy demeanor, so she interjected over her shoulder, “And Ross gets to choose the first piece.” With disbelief and even bigger blue eyes, I screamed, “WWWHHHAAATTT???!!!”

Grabbing my cake from the kitchen table, I gingerly placed it on the kitchen floor. So I would be eye-level with it, I laid down flat on the floor to get a bird’s eye view for the precise cut. Ross laid down next to me, resting his chin on his folded hands. I measured where to cut the cake into pieces so Ross would not have even one granule more. Finally, I felt secure knowing I cut the cake into equal portions. Using the spatula as a serving tool as well as a knife, I gently put a piece of cake onto my plate and walked to the kitchen table with my mouth watering. Again, my mother knew inappropriate behavior took place and told me to hand my piece of cake to Ross. Tears began to well up by now; I was positive I would have no birthday cake.

Being me has never been easy; however, it is the memories of how I treated my younger brother while growing up, which are difficult to swallow. With Ross no longer living, I think about my birthday night and wish I had done things differently. I long to go back to the evening of April 2, 1965. If this were possible, I would hand the spatula to Ross and say, “It’s my birthday and I want you to cut the cake.”
memoir, memoir writing, memoir writing contest, memoir contest winner, lifewriting

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Emie Truden October 7, 2011 at

Dear Deborah
I love your story. It was pulling me to finish it. I felt I was there, I could see the scene. Usually I hardly ever read the whole story, but yours was entertaining even though I didn’t relate to it. My childhood was nothing like that; firstly I loved pleasing my lovable younger brother Joe, secondly, I never had a birthday and thirdly, nobody had a car in our village. I grow up in the poor but pretty country of Slovenia. Regards Emie

Kendra Bonnett October 7, 2011 at

Very nice story, Deborah. Well written and touching. Yeah, I’m afraid we all did things to little brothers that we shouldn’t have. I’m sure Ross forgave you a long time ago. Congratulations on being a Women’s Memoirs winner.

Sherrey October 9, 2011 at

Deborah, how beautifully written your story is, and so very touching. I know I’ve done plenty of things to my younger brother that I shouldn’t have done, but that part of childhood and being children. I too am certain Ross forgave you long ago. Congrats on your win!

kathleen hewitt October 9, 2011 at

I loved the line, “being me has never been easy.”
Congratulations on being a winner and for taking the time to share so clearly, years later, an April memory you’d never forget. Ross is loving you all these birthdays since, I’m sure. The honesty of little children is beautiful and meant to be.

Lisa Woodcock October 14, 2011 at

What a well written story Debbie. Being an only child, I love reading sibling experiences. You were a loving sister to Ross, so don’t ever don’t that!

DEBORAH GILSON November 3, 2011 at

Dear Readers,
Thank you so much for your kind words in response to, “Cut the Cake.” It was a wonderful trip down Memory Lane for me and I’m sure for Ross, too, wherever he may be.
I appreciate you taking time to write your comments; I just now discovered them! I’ll continue writing and posting stories on my Google Blog.
You found me therefore, I believe a publisher will find me and my four memoirs, too!
Thank you again for your kindness.

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