I made myself a birthday cake. There is no egg, flour, or sugary frosting… just paper, ink, and some fluffy white paint. I painted the basic form of my cake directly onto the panel, then began playing with paper collage elements for all the decorations. I drew forty-one candles, and carefully tore out each one, adding some color with a liner brush and India inks. I searched back through my piles of drawings from previous collages and pulled out some of my favorite images for decorating: roses, dogwood blossoms, garden seedlings, olive branches, a mockingbird or two. I also re-used some of the most personal motifs from past collages such as my little white cardigan that I wrote about in Ode to My Mother. A Secret Doorway makes another appearance, as does the Dream Boat and Lego Spaceship. Since it is my birthday cake, I allowed it to be as self-indulgent as I dared, getting into all the nooks and crannies of my life. It became a celebration of not only my birthday, but the world of imagery and meaning that has evolved over the past six months of this project. The final cake holds many contradictions, but makes perfect sense to me. Can a birthday cake be both silly and sincere, light-hearted and full of striving, as unreal as a dream and as concrete as the cul-de-sac of My Suburban Life?