Lana Vaughan

The Queen of Questions

Yellow Cake for breakfast

basic-yellow-cake-2There are some behaviors that have clear origins. Others just seem to have always been part of who you are and how you respond to life. This evening a connection 40 years in the  making became crystal clear.

The summer I turned 12 my mother, my two sisters and I lived with my aunt and uncle. They had what I thought was a huge house in southern Indiana. Each of my cousins had their own room with a big playroom on the third floor. The full basement held all kinds of fun. The large yard had a vegetable garden, a tire swing and a giant magnolia tree for climbing. The screened in back porch was perfect for reading stacks of books from the library.

But the memories that are clearest are of the mornings my aunt would make yellow cake for breakfast. My uncle worked nights and needed the house quiet to sleep during the days. With my two sisters, three cousins and me, my aunt had to come up with ways to get us out of the house. The smell of hot cake at 6 in the morning got me going. Coming down from the room I shared with my cousin Kim, I would find my aunt taking round cake pans out of the oven. Light and golden and just a little sweet, a big slice with a cold glass of milk was breakfast many days. If I was early enough and the other five were slow enough I would get a second piece before they got their first.

My whole world was in turmoil that summer but hot yellow cake and cold milk were a comfort that made me think everything would be alright and that it was worth waking up early again each day. There was the hope of cake.

The days of cake on the back porch are long gone but over the 40 years since that summer my aunt has been there for me every time I called her. When I was wandering in wildernesses of my own choosing she would call me to check on me. When my children were born she was encouraging and supportive. When she and my uncle visited us a few years ago she was genuinely happy with how my life was going and with who I have become. She has, more than any other relative, loved me unconditionally through every stage of my journey.

This afternoon my cousin Kim called. Her mother has stage four cancer and with her advanced age and other complications her final days are dwindling to a precious few.

As I was fixing dinner for my little family, the urge to bake a cake was strong. I realized it was her. It was the hope of yellow cake. When I am sad, I bake cake. When I am happy, I bake cake. When people I love are coming to visit, I bake cake. I’ve never gotten fancy with decorating or frosting. Most of my cakes are bundt cakes, taking what little decoration they have from the pan they are baked in.

My hope is that I can love as unconditionally as she does…and there will be cake.

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