Boxed cake mix, store-bought icing, and one picture that's worth a thousand words.

MaryAnn Weigel

My fourth birthday is the first one I remember. I was dressed for the occasion in my favorite t-shirt, a light-blue number with a pink giraffe front and center. At that time, every day that started with my giraffe tee instantly received best-day-ever status, but there was more to this particular occasion.

Just two weeks prior I became a big sister. I was no longer the younger of two girls, but was now the cream in the Oreo, both the fluff and the ‘nutter in the fluffernutter, and the only one of our trio who would know what it was to be both a big and little.

The greatest wish of my few years had been realized when my parents came home with a tiny Mary Elizabeth who would eclipse me in height by the time she turned five. There was no need for gifts, treats, or balloons; with my very own real-life baby doll, there was nothing more I possibly could want. But, of course, my mom didn't rest on that fact.

Somehow, with a newborn, and two more little ones at five and a newly minted four, she managed to whip up a double-layer pink confection for her birthday girl. We have a picture from that day that instantly takes me back to the moment. I was absolutely beaming with pride, messy ponytail and all, at the wonder of my now-complete circle of sisters (including one not pictured) and, the pièce de résistance, the most beautiful pink cake I had—and have—ever seen.

I don't remember what it tasted like, or if it was topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What I do know is that cake has shaped the kind of mom that I've tried to be every day since taking on the title almost two years ago.

With one box of Sarah Lee, she managed to stamp into my heart exactly what it is to be a mother. It's often described as going above and beyond, but I've found in my first years of motherhood that it's really the fiercest kind of love that spurs moms beyond that place categorized as good enough. It's an anticipation of not just the needs of her family, but what will be the princess-pink icing on each of their days.

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If somehow, through the grace of God, I'm able to instill in my son just how much his mama loves him—no matter how sleep deprived, busy, or emotionally spent I may feel—it will be built upon the foundation set by his Mimi, and her circa '91 pink cake that will forever mean so much more.