Cake Effect

by Brian on March 23, 2005

in A Parent in Israel

It’s been a tough three weeks. Eleven-year-old Merav came down with
terrible stomach cramps…then developed a rash and proceeded to turn

A series of blood tests, ultrasounds and even a liver
scan had the mostly baffled doctors ruling out appendicitis, hepatitis,
and a score of other itis’s, but to date they still have no diagnosis.
There seems to be something going on with her liver or gall bladder
which may explain the jaundice, among other possible explanations.

the midst of all of the poking and prodding and note-taking by diligent
interns at three different hospital emergency rooms, little Aviv turned

Any birthday is a big deal in our house, turning seven
all the more so…particularly for the birthday boy. We had planned a
party for Aviv and his school chums with games like
pin-the-nose-on-the-clown, but given Merav’s suffering, we decided to
put the celebration off.

Aviv seemed OK with this.

on the morning of his birthday, just 15 minutes before school started,
Aviv announced somewhat nonchalantly, “And you’ll be coming with a cake
for hafsakat eser, right?” He was referring to the morning snack break.

“Cake?” Jody and I both looked at the clock and then at each other.

Picking up on our hesitation, Aviv commanded: “You have to bring a cake. That’s what you do for birthdays in my school!”

had one foot out the door already; she was taking Merav back to the
doctor for yet another test and it was raining, meaning traffic would
be nasty.

“There’s no time,” I whined. “And I’ve got a meeting this morning…I’ll have to cancel…can’t we do it a different day, Aviv?”

Aviv looked panicky. His cancelled after-school party was finally hitting home.

follow the instructions,” Jody said, thrusting a box of Pillsbury cake
mix at me and measuring out some oil into a bowl. “And let Aviv crack
the eggs.”

Aviv’s face lit up. As Jody and Merav ran out, I
whipped up the oil and eggs and flour, then popped the pan in the oven
and Aviv out the door.

At exactly 9:45 AM, I arrived at Aviv’s
classroom bearing our creation. I even remembered the frosting. The 36
kids in Aviv’s class were delighted to see me. Who wouldn’t be? I was a
man bearing a cake.

I sliced and Aviv distributed the pieces. He was beaming and proud, the center of attention on his big day.

I was leaving the school, I ran into a group of Merav’s friends by
chance on their way in from recess. I hadn’t intended to visit her
class, but this seemed like an opportunity. In my broken Hebrew, I
updated them on Merav’s condition.

“How do you say gall bladder in Hebrew?” I asked one of the kids I knew was from an English-speaking home.

“What’s a gall bladder?” she asked.


“You know,” I added, “Merav’s a bit lonely. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if some of you came to visit for a bit.

Her classmates all began talking among themselves, and I could see that the sixth grade planning wheels had been set in motion.

and Merav arrived back from the doctor about the same time as I walked
in from my visit to school. Merav flopped into her familiar sick
position, clutching her hot water bottle on the couch and looking dour
and distressed.

As I headed back out the door for my meeting,
she confided to me: “You know, I thought it would be fun to stay home
and watch TV all day. But now all I want to do is go back to school. I
wonder if my friends even care about me?”

“Of course they do,” I said. I wanted to tell her about my conversation with the kids in her class, but I was already late.

When I returned home, something was different. Merav’s mood had brightened considerably.

big poster was taped to the door with well wishes from her classmates
and the entire Scouts troop. Someone had brought over a candy bar –
white chocolate, Merav’s favorite (not that she had any appetite for
it). Merav was flipping through a hand written book with pages after
page of heartfelt blessings. Several board games, a video, and a pair
of new socks lay stacked neatly in the corner.

“My friends,” Merav said weakly but with as big a smile as she could muster. “They really do care.”

A few minutes later, Aviv came bounding in the door, oblivious to the transformation taking place around him.

“Is there any more cake left?” he demanded.

“Absolutely,” I said. “On a day like today, it appears that there’s more than enough sweetness to go around.”

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