It was 1967. A culprit had made off with a piece of cake and Mom and Dad were on the case. Deliciously, I anticipated and welcomed the trial as we assembled in the kitchen because innocence was mine. My eight-year-old eyes sneered at my seven older brothers and sisters, intent on intuiting who the thief might be. Glances around the room should provoke the offender into squirming, sweating or gasping—fair’s fair, right? My father’s voice: “Who helped themselves to a piece of cake last night?”
Presumably, a sibling let himself have cake (ate it too) and although 45 years have passed since the Great Byrne Cake Caper, I cannot recall whodunit. Neuro-scientists tell us that each time a memory is replayed our brain “remembers” the scene slightly differently. Essentially, we rewrite the memory. I’m pretty sure it was in the kitchen, with a knife—Scarlet, Plum or Mustard—still dunno?
Today we understand that most memories get tucked away in the unconscious regions of our brains—very few reach conscious awareness. The conscious memories change a bit each time we remember them. This can be a little frightening for obvious reasons—too many replays would not only cloud our recollections, they might distort our ability to recognize our preferences.
My eight-year-old brain not only remembered the scene, it delivered (to me) an idea that grew into a tasty plan. You see, I reasoned, my stealthy sibling made one mistake. He wasn’t brazen enough. He left the rest of the cake behind. I vowed that when the time came for me to exercise my cat-burglar skills, I would simply steal the entire cake. No self-respecting parent (or sibling) would ever suspect a kid of being that cruel or callous. Brilliant! Licking my lips, the genius continued. If questioned, my response was already rehearsed, coolly calculated and Pink Panther-ish. “Burglars,” I’d say. “It must have been burglars.”
I never tested my theory. Didn’t have the chutzpah. The idea I was so in love with—actually stunk.
During the last 30 years in Canada we have seen amazing prosperity—only problem is, practically all of the economic gains have gone to the top one per cent. They had the chutzpah to take your cake, my cake and most of Patti’s. Whodunit? “Politicians,” they’d say. “It must have been politicians.” Even more cakes—missing—so more scapegoats paraded. “Unions,” they’d say. “It must have been unions.” Today, practically all the cakes are sitting in vaults. Childhood fairness has been crippled by corporate greed. Let the squirming, sweating and gasping begin.
Where do you shop for your crumbs? Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do the right thing.”
Let them eat cake! ~John Paul Byrne