Getting Older and Giving Thanks

It’s Thursday and it’s the only Pandemic-Thanksgiving I’ve lived in my short 49 years on this planet. I’m sitting in a kitchen that is not in my house, but in a house that still feels like home to me.

Today is a day when families in the United States traditionally gather and eat too much food and between the frenetic last minute prep and the post-turkey sofa coma tell whomever will listen what they are thankful for.

This year is different. I suppose if one sentence could really sum up 2020 it is just that. This year is different. My girlfriend is in her home office having a virtual party with her ride or die crew. I’m sitting at the kitchen island trying to avoid the gaze of a pumpkin pie that is doing its best to stare me down. Indeed, this year is different.

I could write volumes as to what that really means or rather, what it has meant to me, but nobody really wants that. If you’ve followed any of the shmoopy poems I’ve posted on Instagram since September, you probably already have a good idea what I mean anyway.

The Reader’s Digest Condensed version is this. In September, a friend of a friend reached out to me through a social media messaging platform based on my response (and her digital Encyclopedia Browning) to said mutual friend’s post. That was 75 or 76 days ago now and to say that my world is completely different is the mother of all understatements.

As I mentioned, I’m going to spare you all of the saccharine details, but the gist is this. I am quite certain that I have found the person who fills the hole in my heart that I never knew was there until I met her. And it’s more incredible than I could have ever hoped.

I just had a birthday. No, that’s OK. Don’t worry if you didn’t get me anything. It’s not a big deal, besides social distancing makes random gift giving rough these days. So, this birthday is not one of the milestone birthdays, but it is the last year of my forties.

And I can say, friends and people I don’t really know, this birthday is quite possibly one of the best on record for yours truly.

I’m not going to go into everything, but I have to tell you about this cake. I don’t know how many of you are aware of the snack cake to rule them all. I speak of course of the Chocodile. Take a Hostess Twinkie and dip them in the chocolate used on King Dons (or Ding Dons, depending on which part of the country you are in) and you have a Chocodile. It is important that the chocolate be the chocolate from the KingDons or Ding Dongs and NOT the Ho-Ho’s. Trust me-there is a difference. So, I told my girlfriend about Chocodiles a few weeks ago sitting out in the middle of a hollow in Eastern KY and how they were my favorite snack cakes, but could not be found anywhere.

Fast forward to my birthday a couple of days ago. My GF, her daughter, my bestie and her daughter were in attendance. And after opening some amazing gifts, I was told to close my eyes while the cake was brought in. My parents were on via FaceTime and I opened my eyes.

When I tell you I was not prepared for the epic nature of this cake, don’t do it justice. I cried. Seriously. A cake made me cry. And a birthday card. And a meal. And presents. OK, shush. It was an emotional evening, OK? Fine.

So…the cake. It looked a little like this.

I don’t know if you can really get a sense of the amazingness of this, folks. This is a homemade cake that is surrounded by honest to god Chocodiles. Sixteen of them. Sixteen of my favorite snack cake. Did I mention how hard they are to find? f

So, yeah. There was that. But that wasn’t just it. In addition to surrounding the cake with Chocodiles, my amazing GF decided to make a cake she had NEVER made before (which considering that baking is her primary language was quite a surprise). What kind of cake, Todd? Oh, I’m glad you asked. She decided that the cake should be a representation of a Chocodile as well. So…the sponge cake is damn near identical to a Twinkie sponge cake. AND…The filling between the layers is a clone to the creamy filling of a Twinkie. No, I’m serious. Top it off with a chocolate ganache and the whole thing is literally a Chocodile cake.

Now do you see why I was brought to tears? I mean, look at this thing!!

One of the first things that comes to mind as I sit here reflecting upon this week is that I can actually use the hashtag ‘blessed’ and not have it steeped in irony.

Yes, 2020 has been a shit show in so many ways for so many people. And it is easy to get hung up on the rough side. I mean, the bad news is everywhere. But I have to be honest, I can’t be mad at it.

This year has brought me so many things to be thankful for. I know I said I was going to dive into that a little on this post, but I have to be honest–I need another piece of that cake. We’ll dive deeper in to some of the gratitude on the next post, mmmkay?

And now I leave you with a handmade birthday gift from my bestie, several gifts from my girlfriend, and a birthday gift from 2 years ago (that just arrived 3 weeks ago–don’t ask).

Until next time, stay safe my friends!

-AT

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