Monday, January 30, 2006

cake costs

My daughter Sage is turning four next month, and asked her Mom and I if she could have a "princess cake". We went to a cakeshop in the nearby Robinson's Galleria and asked if they could do it. The cakelady pointed us towards a pile of picture albums we could choose from.

"Wow," Sage said, as we sat down to peruse the books. "But remember, Dad. I want a Cinderella one, okay?"

"Of course," I said, skipping past Jasmine on a magic carpet and Belle at the ball. My eyes began to scan the prices appended to the colorful pictures. Each one had a little sticker that noted the cost and the word "motif".

"What does 'motif' mean?" Nikki asked the cakelady.

"That's the cost for the design," the cakelady replied. "The cake is not included in that price."

"Dad, look!" Sage exclaimed, pointing at a massive towered cake with all of the Disney princesses on it, including the in-demand Cinderella. I looked at the motif price and was stunned into near-speechlessness - P4900. It was more expensive than certain weddings cakes.

"Oh," I mumbled weakly. "That does look nice but let's look around a little more. There's a lot to see, right?"

"Okay, Dad," Sage said, leafing through the pages.

In my head I was already finished with the budgetary computations. Even if I stretch what I had put aside, the expensive cake Sage first pointed to was way beyond what I assumed a cake would cost. In fact, that cake would consume the entire amount I set aside for her party. I struggled with how I would have to tell my daughter that she'd have to settle for a less expensive one - because her Dad could not afford the dazzling omnibus Princess set up. In that span of time I remembered my own childhood and how I took the cost of everything for granted. As a father, I do want to give my daughter what she wants. But I know my limits. It made me a little sad but certainly cakes are not the be-all end-all of what it means to be a good father. But how I wanted to be able to give it to her. After all, her birthday came only once a year, I thought. But how? How do I pay for it?

"Dad, look!" Sage exclaimed, restoring my mind back to reality. Her finger pointed to a blue cake, with Cinderella standing beside a fountain. "Cinderella! Can I have this one, please?"

I looked at my daughter's eyes and realized that sometimes love and the budget are mutually exclusive. Please, please don't let it be absurdly expensive, Lord.

The sticker informed me that the motif price was P2700. In one of my stories I wrote about a terribly exquisite moment when a character's heart shattered into a thousands of little pieces, each one cold and hard and sharp. It happened to me. Even at just over half the cost of the initial ludicrous cake, it was still too expensive.

"That's a wonderful cake, Sage," Nikki said.

"It has my favorite," Sage said happily.

In the middle of prepping up my speech about how cakes are not the most important thing about a birthday, I looked at the motif price again, wondering how in heaven's name Nikki seemed to be fine with the cost.

Magically, the sticked informed me that the true price was P270. P270, not P2700. I couldn't believe my eyes. I turned to my daughter.

"Yes," I told her. "Yes, you can certainly have this one."

An explosion of joy!

With the addition of a strawberry butter cake to which the Cinderella motif would be applied, our total cost came in at around P600. I got a kiss, a hug and a big "thank you, Dad!" from Sage as I lingered in the midst of an epiphany: it is wrong to assume to that the most expensive thing is what will bring joy to a child's heart.

It is my own expectations that bring me heartache, I thought as I picked up the pieces of my heart on the bakeshop floor. A lesson I need to remember as my daughter grows up.

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