The Birthday of Three Cakes

Posted on behalf of Nicholas Jansen, Social Media Coordinator, Team East

I was born on August 3rd 1994. Coincidently, my little brother was born on August 3rd, 1996. So ever since I was two years old, I’ve shared my birthday with my little brother. This summer was different though. This summer was going to be the first summer that I was going to be able to celebrate my birthday all by my lonesome and bask in the glory of my own birthday. As luck would have it, out of my four other teammates and the other 364 days that you can have a birthday, my teammate Rachel also was born on August 3rd; so much for my own birthday eh?

Rachel and I with our second birthday cake in Townsend!

Rachel and I with our second birthday cake in Townsend!

While my birthday this year wasn’t new in that sense, it was still made special in many ways. On August 2nd, we were in Winchendon. We had a busy day, had a travel day in the following morning and more work to be done that night. We went up to M.J. Galat’s house to use the internet (because her family’s gorgeous cabin didn’t) and there was a surprise. She ended up making Rachel and I a vegan birthday cake (vegan so Zalo could enjoy its deliciousness as well)!!! That was birthday cake #1. Then the next morning, she made us vegan AND gluten free pancakes (for Tuula) as well. Not going to lie, Rachel and I also ended up having some of the birthday cake for breakfast that day – please don’t tell my mom. Departing that day, the day of my birthday, I gave her one of my biggest hugs because like many others this summer, I felt like I had yet another mom.

Then after our wonderful 25 mile bike ride to Townsend on the third, Emily Norton greeted us with showers that felt like finding an oasis in a desert, and along with Lois made us a birthday dinner! That is when Rachel and I were presented with our 2nd birthday cake that ended up being vegan AND gluten free. Yes, you read that right, vegan and gluten free. The best part? It was FANTASTIC! Yes, I was surprised as well, but believe me, it was good. If that wasn’t enough, she helped us get a campsite at a local camp ground, brought us tents and helped us set them up so Rachel and I could have our birthday end under the night sky, beside a bon fire with the friends we’ve become so close with throughout the summer. I gave her a big hug too when we had to say our “see you laters.”

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Jana, Rachel, Me and Zach celebrating our birthdays with ice-cream cake!

Then yesterday, on the 8th, we went to Bob and Julie Jette’s house for – you guessed it – yet another birthday dinner. What made this one a little more special was that we started our summer in Dracut so it felt like coming home but also because their son, Zach, had his birthday on the third as well and our other teammate, Jana, has her birthday on the 10th (so really half the people there were celebrating their birthday). That is when we had the best potatoes on this side of the Mississippi and a home-made ice cream cake that was so good, I had to lay down after eating too much to make sure I didn’t taste it a second time on our bike ride back. Many hugs were exchanged that evening (I made sure not to hug too hard for obvious reasons).

I can’t thank these ladies and their wonderful families enough for what they did to help make Rachel’s and my birthday one for the books. We didn’t get any presents or get to spend it with our families but instead we extended our existing families and received something you can’t wrap in a box or put a bow on. We received the love that made us feel like we were their own kids during a time when we couldn’t be with our own families and we can’t thank them enough for what they did. I truly will never forget my 20th birthday and the three moms and families that we celebrated it with.

About njansen16

My name is Nicholas Jansen and I'm entering my fourth and last year at the University of Michigan. My major is Program in the Environment (PitE) with a specialization in water.
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