Birthdays and Butter Cream Icing: a Magic Portal to My Heart

Today is my birthday. Many years ago, my birthday celebrations, at least my fondest ones in my tween and early teen years, consisted of Mom ordering a sheet cake with butter cream icing — oh, how I still love butter cream icing. It acts as a portal, almost like the magical kind from Harry Potter books where you touch an object and it automatically transports you to another place. Butter cream icing automatically transports me to my childhood birthday celebrations.

Those included Hawaiian Punch, Neapolitan ice cream, and friends — Al and Kathy, my sister, maybe a friend of hers, and anyone else I happened to be hanging with at the time. It was always just a small informal deal in the living room, which was also my bedroom in our tiny four room apartment. My mom always made it special, though. My dad did, too. He knew what kinds of gifts a boy would like — ball glove, pocket knives, BB guns, science kits. Of course, that little informal party would be followed by the supper of my choice: usually fried chicken, mashed potatoes with milk gravy, and creamed peas and carrots. Yes, one bite of the magic portal of butter cream icing today, and I’m back on S. Spring Avenue in south St. Louis.

And I guess in a way, I was already there today in spirit since I heard the news of Muhammad Ali’s death, because in that same living room, same apartment, is where I used to read from Sports Illustrated, Life, or any other magazine I bought a subscription to, about Ali. He was either on the cover or featured in those magazines often.

I remember comments from various sources on media and just out and about in my tiny piece of the world. I am old enough to clearly remember the racial tensions, hatred, and bitter invectives directed at Ali and Dr. King and African Americans in general, as well as Native Americans like Russell Means who were mounting their own protests at the time. I couldn’t understand it, and somehow, deep within, the hatred against fellow human beings angered me.

But I was also confused in my young teen mind. Why? While it seems like the egoic bitterness and hatred towards others just because of skin color should be upsetting to anyone who listens to the heart, I couldn’t understand why those who I felt a heart affinity for would hate me because of my skin color. I couldn’t put in perspective that the victims of prejudice would in turn show the same hatred back. And I won’t go into it here, but personal experience showed that to me.

I was naive, probably still am in many ways; I have not tried to hide my idealism in my writing. I could not comprehend how a group who had experienced hatred could be provided with beautiful housing — from my juvenile perspective at the time — like the Pruitt-Igoe projects and destroy them, especially when they were nicer than where I lived. I do understand now, but I hope you see my confusion at a young age. However, that basic conflict, that bitter hatred and destruction and negative life energy from any who are creating it is still beyond my comprehension — no, I won’t say that because I understand it but I don’t accept the lame egos involved in perpetrating such hatred.

Yesterday, I wrote about Muhammad Ali. He exhibits how a person can live their heart and negotiate a hostile environment while doing so. Not everyone who lives with heart as primary life filter would agree with all of his actions, but that’s just the point: It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks when we live our heart. Those who do that can just encourage others who follow their heart, no ego censure involved. I remember Ali’s words: “Hating people because of their color is wrong and it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”

And I thought about him and about hatred and about the possibilities of peace and justice and how that could ever evolve from all the turmoil of society of the 60’s and early 70’s. And I realize now, did in some ways then, that the only reconciliation to the ego and rage (which I sometimes felt and which only ended up in some sort of destruction and depression) — the only answer that would ever make a difference would be a heart response.

Yes, I thought about these things in a seminal form right there in the little living room on S. Spring Avenue where I celebrated my birthdays, long ago and far away — until I taste butter cream icing.

It would be a really nice birthday present for me if — in the midst of all the hateful politicking and pompous declarations of the day — some of us, the handful of you who read this, would just pause, speak to your hearts, listen closely, and join me in the joy of living and loving one another, join me in the fellowship of the heart.

Happy Birthday to me!

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