Friday, November 20, 2009


Barbara Schnepp was my Girl Scout leader. She made cakes for every occasion: weddings, funerals, church suppers, and family reunions. Cakes were her thing. She made my wedding cake. I grew up on her cakes. But one memorable February night, in my mind, she made the cake of all cakes for the PTA Cakewalk.

I held my breath for a moment as I beheld her beautiful angel food cake with blue icing dripping down the sides like icicles. There were other delicious-looking cakes that night but Barbara Schnepp’s angel food wonder stood out like a crown jewel on top of the old black piano where Mrs. Hopkins sat playing. I could not keep my eyes off that cake, shimmering in the bright lights of the school gymnasium, where all the important community events took place.

There was a long line of people who had dropped a quarter into the glass jar for a chance to walk on the big chalk circle drawn on the floor. My dad gave me a quarter and told me to get in line. We had arrived late so the line was pretty long. I screwed my eyes up tight and made a million wishes while other people took their turns ahead of me. Mrs. Sabin’s chocolate cake went, then Mrs. Kellicut’s spice cake with white frosting was gone, Mrs. Heinline’s carrot cake, then a cake with the chocolate chips on top, but the crown jewel was still there! I couldn’t stand still. I jumped up and down until I felt my mother’s hand on my shoulder reminding me to keep my feet on the ground. And, of course, I had to pee. I had to hold it until my turn came. I thought it would never come. But it did.

The gods smiled down on me that night as I walked the circle and won the last cake of the night. THE cake.

I felt like a million bucks driving home in the old green station wagon that night. I sat in the only safe place, between my parents with that huge cake in my lap. Six brothers and sisters were hanging over the seat licking their lips and sneaking a finger toward the cake for “just a little taste.”

Getting out of the car I held the cake high over my head and ran as fast as I dared while my brothers held off our dog until I got up the stairs and into the house. Everyone gathered around the kitchen table excited to be sharing such a treat well after bedtime. Dad brought out the butcher knife and made a big show of sharpening it on the wet stone while Mom got out the plates. Our dog pranced around the table while we kids argued about who would get the biggest piece. That was a no-brainer. I did!


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