Like to many photographic "traditions" of mine, I don't know where it comes from. Maybe the cake is such a transient part of the ritual that I feel a deep-seated need to freeze it in time. Maybe I'm thinking back to my own childhood and remembering the cakes that used to materialize in front of me (chocolate with light-chocolate icing and embedded chocolate chips. Yum.) Maybe I think a focused shot of the soon-to-be-gooey mess would preserve the moment.
I'll probably never figure it out, but I do enjoy that feeling I get when I look back at pictures like this. Sure, what comes next is the moment everyone waits for, the one that gets the signature photos and the one that shows up in highlight reels for years to come (and I've included them here lest my father-in-law wonder why I left them out.)
But sometimes I just want to rewind a little to the moment before. To when the best part was ahead of the birthday boy or girl - and indeed the rest of us - and we were all waiting for something good to happen. And when Dahlia turned 16 not too long ago, something good certainly happened - indeed she's been making good things happen to everyone around her since the day she was born.
I think often about these so-called electric moments, where your entire body almost seems to be at a heightened state of awareness because you can almost feel what's about to happen. Where you can almost feel like you're holding back time as you remember, in beyond-high-def, every last visual, sound and feeling. It's the difference between surviving and truly living, a place where you don't have to try too hard to suck that much more joy out of whatever it is that's going on.
It doesn't have to be a birthday. It can be an everyday moment, too. And if we don't stop time before it happens, we may never know what that might feel like.