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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Wedding Cake

[4th in series of 4 posts.]
Mom turned the page
to the picture of the cake
and told me something
that I’d never heard,
nor was there cause
to hear it until now.

“Did you know Bob made
the wedding cake we served?”
“Your Bob?” I asked, wanting to hear more.
“My Bob,” she smiled. “His family owned a bakery
near the corner of 10th and Lapeer— just five blocks from the bridge.”
“The underwear bridge?” I asked. [See previous post.]

“Just a walk from there, and around the corner
from our house on Lapeer Avenue.”

“ Time out, Mom. I’m confused.
You said OUR house on Lapeer?"

“Well, we didn’t live there yet, of course,” she said.
"We didn’t move there ‘til you were born—
Let's see... Kathy in ’52; Paul in ’53; Dave in ’54;
and you in ’56—So this was five years before.
Those were fun days weren’t they, Tom?
You in droopy diapers riding Duke, and Dave
and Paul wearing pots on their heads
in the sandbox, and Kathy playing dress-up...”

“They were magic years, Mom, but… the cake.
You were telling me about the cake.”

“Oh, yea… Well, Bob and I
were in class together since 7th grade.
He’d come over to talk sometimes
when Barb and Jean and I
were sitting on the back-porch swing.
(She turned back to the reception page.)
“That’s Barb there serving cake—
but that wasn’t the cake I’d ordered.
You see what happened was…
an acquaintance of ours had offered
to make a wedding cake,
and she brought it to my house—
you know, Grandma’s house
on Forest Street—the day before.
But the cake was not what I'd described at all,
and soon as she left, I just bawled.
I had no time and no money left to fix it,
and then I remembered Bob.
He worked at his folk's bakery on 10th.
So I caught the bus, and...”

“Wait a minute, Mom.” I said. “Why a bus?"

“I didn't have a license; I didn't have a car—
it was your dad who taught me how to drive,
but that was later on;
and Daddy, my dad, was workin' I guess;
and Dad Collinge was probably at the Grotto.
and Mumma never drove—ever...
but we always managed to get around—
just like she still hops a bus to the beauty shop
and she's just shy of 100. Isn't that something?
I used to take the bus every day
from Riverview to Stone Street.
This is when I worked at Star Oil."

"I remember that you worked there—
it was by Pine grove, but I guess
I never heard about the bus."

"Here's something else
I'll bet I never told you about Star Oil:
I worked in accounts receivable?
Imagine that. Me who flunked bookkeeping—
all I remembered about bookkeeping
was it being the only word
with three double letters in a row,
but they hired me just the same.”

My jaw dropped,“Now that I did not know..."
“What? About the double letters?”
“No that you worked in accounts receivable.”
“Ironic isn’t it, but that’s what I did…
right up ‘til a few months before Kate was born.
That was the only “job” job I ever had.
Then you kids became my job
and your dad, of course…
but he was working that day ‘til five,
climbing poles for Bell,
saving his days-off for the honeymoon…
so he couldn’t take me.”

“Take you where?” I wondered aloud.
“To the bakery to see about a cake.”

“Oh, yea. You got me thinkin' about that picture
of Dad smiling at the top of a telephone pole.
Most of your stories I know by heart,
but this cake one I’ve never heard,
and we keep veering off...
So it’s what time? Noon?
The day before the wedding...
and you still need a cake...
you get to the bakery… and then what?”

“I was afraid it was closed.
The door was stuck, but then
I pushed it, and the bell that hung inside
rang so loud it scared me.
No one was at the counter—
which was fine because I knew
I was about to cry again…
so I just stood there staring
at baked goods behind glass.
I loved the smell of that bakery.
I used to walk you kids
there for doughnuts. Remember?”
“Mom, the cake. I’m like five years
from existing at this point in the story.
If you don’t get this cake, I may never be born.”

Mom laughed, “You know how I like
to tell things—they're not tangled they're connected.

So… I’m standing there and Bob comes
from the back to the green counter out front.
We’d lost touch since high school—
I’d heard he was married now—
but he was always such a friend.
‘Hello, Bev!’ He says, ‘What can I do for you?’
He said that. ‘Do ya mean it, Bob?
Can you really do something for me?’
I think he could tell something was wrong.
‘I’ll sure try. What do you need?’
And then I just bawled.”

“Mom, you just walked into Bob’s bakery
and started crying? What did he do?
Had he seen you like that before?”
“Oh, probably. Everybody knew I cried easily,
but he just smiled and said:
‘Bev, for you I can do this.’
‘How can you do this by tomorrow?’
(I was so embarrassed to ask.)
‘For you, I’ll bake it this afternoon,
let it cool overnight, frost it in the morning,
and deliver it to the church myself.’
He scribbled the order on a pad,
open and closed the register drawer,
and said, “No charge.” And I cried again.

The cake was there the next day.
It was beautiful with little roses
on each of the sheet cake squares.
That was the last time I saw Bob
until our 50th Class Reunion
seven years ago. You know the rest."

I did know the rest,
but this story brought a smile
that had been missing
from a chapter of our lives.
Some things take time to understand.

Mom went to the kitchen for a bite,
and I turned to the last picture
at the back of the book.
Mom and Dad are sitting cheek-to-cheek
in the back of a borrowed sedan
smiles beaming with all the love and happiness
they gave to us for forty-some years.

Dad died unexpectedly in ’95,
and Mom lived alone for a while.
Then the Class of ’48 called to see
if she was coming to their reunion.
She was ready.
By stepping briefly into her past
she was able to re-enter the present
and look ahead. Long story short…
Bob was also there and alone that night,
and their friendship was rekindled.
It slowly grew in the forgiving soil
that comes with age until it called for
a gathering of friends and family
about a mile from the other church
(the one in Mom's wedding book).
In a little chapel there
we shared another wedding cake
that as far as I know…Bob didn’t bake
the afternoon before.

Mom was right:
Her stories aren't tangled at all...
they're unbelievably connected.

The four posts above were begun in February 2006 and originally posted for Mom's 76 Birthday, April 24, 2006. My grandmother is now 97 and still hops the bus to the beauty shop. She has come three times to see Mom in the hospital. Because she is still very sharp mentally, it's been hard for her to witness this. With each passing year, she continues to amaze her children, grandchildren, great-grand children, and great-great grandchildren.

At the time of the original writing, Bob was on his annual trek with Wertz Warriors, a legion of snowmobilers who raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Special Olympics each year. Bob is the official photographer for the event, and his photos can be seen in the book found at this link. He was prepared to go again this year, and Mom was going to stay with Julie until I returned from Thailand.

At the time of this re-posting, because of Mom's hospitalization the last week of January 2008, Bob was unable to travel with the Wertz Warriors, but his friends have been keeping in touch with him during these difficult days.


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