Dear readers, today we celebrate the strongest woman I know, a truly swanky dancer, the epitome of poise and slightly goofy sophistication.

Happy 58th birthday, Mommy dear.

It couldn’t have been easy all those years, fending off my pre-teen pleas for Vienna sausages (in a can, pale and slippery), Cheetos, Bubblicious bubble gum, and Hawaiian Punch. While pining away for these forbidden “junk food” items, I was deathly picky: no condiments on anything, no lumps in the Campbell’s Tomato Soup, no bananas, nothing spicy, nothing jiggly, nothing remotely gristly, no mushrooms, no nuts in the cookie, no asparagus, no jam on the PB & J. But with patience and a steady diet of bologna roll-ups,* she brought me around. What a woman.

Throughout my childhood, I spent every afternoon in late November and December watching Mom and family friend Barbara Fretwell make dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies, from linzers dusted in powdered sugar to chocolate-dipped pecan bars, Aunt Bill’s burnt-sugar candy, and coffee-walnut toffee. Though the cookie tradition petered out a few years ago, Mom and I quickly picked up the slack, tag-teaming on Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée and rich cranberry tartes with fragile shells and eating the last crumbs of fresh ginger cake with caramelized pears at midnight, after the last guest went home. I was happily doomed to be a baker, cheeks red from puffs of the oven’s hot, perfumed air.

Together we’ve eaten much fallafel, chocolate, cheese, and salami, and there have been a few riverside sandwiches with green beans on the side. There’s been wine on the grass in the Place des Vosges, and on road trips, there are hard-boiled eggs and Sportea. Many cherry pits have been spit out the window.

And of course, this story isn’t entirely about food:

It is from this woman that I got my talent for listening, crying at the drop of a hat, and finding parking spaces; my love of a long walk; my happy independence; my ability to pretend I know where I’m going; my taste for well-made (and unfortunately expensive) items; my tendency to intimidate without intending to; and my love for playing hostess. Oh Mommy Mommy.

Here’s to many more. I’ll see you tomorrow, with cake. I love you.

*For the uninitiated, a bologna roll-up is a round flabby sheet of Oscar Meyer beef bologna smeared with mayonnaise and rolled. I’m unsure of how this escaped “junk food” categorization, but it did. Mom?