Today I made a chocolate cake...a REAL chocolate cake. The kind that uses buttermilk and shortening. The kind that requires icing to be slowly boiled in an iron skillet. The kind that takes time to make and even more time to make well.
It's the second time I've made a cake like this since my mom died.
It's the recipe that she used, that her mom used, and her mom used before her. And I'm thankful for all of this.
I'm thankful for the memories of these irreplacable women and how each of them impacted who I am.
I stood, stirring chocolate, waiting for it to "feel right" before I iced the layers and recalled memories of other kitchens and other hands holding wooden spoons and stirring sweetness in a cast iron skillet.
I thought of the small wrinkled hands of my great-grandmother, standing over the stove in the tiny kitchen of her trailer. As a little girl playing in the wheelchair on her front screened porch I could hear her say, "I just don't know if it'll even be fittin' to eat. This chocolate just don't wanna do right." But it was always delicious.
I thought of my Memaw, muttering the same phrase, and adding, "We might just need to play with the chocolate a little bit," as she'd pull the skillet off the eye of the stove and sit down at the kitchen table to stir & whisk.
I thought of my Papa telling the story of one day when the cake, "just fell to pieces & she just cried, but we all pulled up to the table and ate the crumbs. It didn't look that good, but it mighta been the best tasting chocolate cake Ruthie ever made."
I thought of how I called her from Birmingham, and she talked me through the process of making my first chocolate cake solo, for Eric's birthday the first year we were married. How we'd talk a little, I'd hang up, then call back a few minutes later for some reassurance.
I thought of my mom, making this cake for others, to show appreciation or as part of a celebration. I thought of how she said, "The ones I make in Mama's kitchen always turn out better. I think it's my oven." How she loved to give for the enjoyment of others.
So this morning, as my four children played and my dad sat on the couch playing solitaire, I made a cake. I made the cake for a friend of my dad's from work. And when he gave it to her, we were talking on the phone, and she said, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I might just eat myself silly with this!"
And I smiled, because I'm the one grateful. I should be saying three "thank yous" to my mom and her mom and her mom. I have this sweet history and heritage from them, and I get to share it with others.