Bibles and Cake Mix
My grandma didn’t like it too good when I suggested to her I was pretty sure there wasn’t a God. She didn’t say so, but I could tell, from the look she got when I told her I would be sitting out Homecoming that year. I was in college now and that meant work even on Sundays. With papers to write and books to read and already behind I really had no business coming for a visit that weekend. But she was getting old and I missed her so it was easy to slip away from my routine and head to the little house and the woman who had a hand in raising me.
“It’s what they call mythology,” I told my grandma who listened face, puckered in disappointment as I shared what I had learned from Professor WhateverHisNameWas, that’s all been so long ago now.
I still remember her listening and not saying anything as I explained it; all the things I had been learning about the way things really are. My grandma was a good listener, one of the many things I remember about her, along with the taste of her sweet tea, how she made the best banana pudding in the world, and how she switched my legs one time when I got sassy with my mama on the telephone.
“Hmmm,” she finally got around to saying after I explained there really wasn’t an Adam and Eve and all that was just made up. She even loaned me her scissor sharpened pencil so I could draw her the necessary diagrams which would make the old book she had been reading all these years, the one she carried to church pretty meaningless, just a good place to keep pictures and record birthdays and deaths.
“It’s called Evolution,” I said before stopping to catch my breath.
“They had that, ‘Evilution,’ back when I was coming along too,” she interjected face still puckered and looking puzzled, concerned, and disappointed, all at the same time.
“Its better now, based on what is called empirical evidence and data analysis,” I explained wanting to try out some of the new words I had been learning at college. She seemed to understand. Even then my grandma was a pretty smart cookie, and with each passing year the old girl seems smarter and smarter even though she’s long since left this world.
She listened. I talked. Then I fished some of my books out; I was really able to explain how things really happened.
“There you have it all based on hard evidence and computer models,” I remember announcing my cup of coffee now cold and hers too and both of us behind on our chores. I had come to rake her yard and she was going to wash my clothes and make me banana pudding. Neither of which worked out.
Somewhere between the kitchen and the washer on the back porch my grandma had one of her spells, something that she was more used to than me. After a while I was able to get her to her bed where still in her apron she laid down saying she needed to close her eyes for just a minute.
“I’ll commence to feeling better directly,” she promised eyes closed and trying to lay a still as she could. She told me I might have to wash my own clothes. I didn’t mind and I didn’t mind raking the leaves which covered her yard. She said that could wait. That suited me too, it was cold that day I remember, and windy. Then she told me she might need me to run down to the Pick and Check and get a few things she needed. There was Homecoming to think about, and she always made a dessert. Then she asked me if I thought I could make a cake cracking open her eyes just enough to see fear overtake my face.
“I’ll try,” I managed. At that time I hadn’t made a cake or a pie or much of anything. Up until then, to my way of thinking grandmas and mamas were around for that sort of thing. I had math problems to solve and calculations to make and other real serious things that needed my attention.
Then with the pencil and tablet I had just used to give her a brief history of time, the meaning of life, and a peek into how things really work, I wrote down the things she called out.
“Eggs- two dozen, sugar-five pounds, butter and not the fake kind either and six boxes of cake mix and don’t forget the icing.” Everything else she said she had which made me glad. I didn’t like grocery shopping back then anymore than I do now, not even at the Pick and Check where Mr. Goodwin the owner use to give me a stick of chewing gum when I went shopping with grandma.
I made it back home just in time to hear the radio preacher finish up his Saturday afternoon service I don’t think my grandma ever missed. She was still in bed which worried me a little since I was counting on her to talk me through the cake baking.
“You’ll do just fine, just read what’s on the box,” she whispered eyes still closed and insisting I would have to manage by myself; alone. And somehow I did and the cakes turned out better than I expected especially after I iced them.
Funny how I had watched my mama and grandma bake thousands of cakes but when I found myself alone her little kitchen, I had no idea where to start.
By the time the Saturday night baseball game came on, the cakes were made, my clothes were washed, the leaves were raked and grandma was feeling better. None of my school work was done but four beautiful and tasty cakes were ready for Homecoming.
There would be no banana pudding this year grandma told me as she bragged on my cakes, even calling my folks to let them know about my hidden talent. I told them not to get any ideas, looking up from the paper I was writing on natural selection, the topic Professor WhateverHisNameWas said would be a good one for my research project. He would know, being an expert on evolution theory and having written our textbook.
The next morning grandma was still not herself and even with my mountain of school work that peeked out of my book bag, I couldn’t let her go to church by herself, and I couldn’t let her miss Homecoming. I held her hand all the way there and all the way back and during the service which I think made her feel better. Even at Homecoming, I stayed by her side, listening to her brag on the cakes I made and how I was going to college and about me being smart and her being proud. She left out the part about me figuring out there wasn’t no God. I was glad; I don’t think that kind of talk would have went over too good, not with us sitting at the preacher’s table.
Too fast that beautiful Sunday afternoon filled with the colors of autumn leaves and warm sunshine turned into evening. I had to be leaving and leaving was never easy from my grandma’s house.
“This one is for you,” she said handing me the cake she had secretly set aside for me.
By then all my things were packed and my car was warming and the hurry I had been in had passed. It was her turn to hold my hand as she led me to the front porch where we took our places on the swing I remember so well even after all these years.
I didn’t let on, but I was puzzled by what she had tucked under her arm, a cake mix box and a Bible. With a tiny tear in her eyes she told me she was an old woman and reminded both of us her days weren’t long upon this Earth and holding up her old Bible she admitted not understanding it like she wished she could.
“Then if I did, I reckon faith wouldn’t count for much,” she added which still has me thinking after all these years.
“Yes mam,” I said feeling a need to say something.
“And this cake mix it’s something else I really don’t understand either but I know if I do what it says on the back of the box, I will get a pretty good cake.”
It was my turn to listen.
“Yes, I will get a pretty good cake, and so will you,” she said squeezing my hand and laying aside her Bible and the cake box so she could give me the kind of hug only grandmas can.
I still have her Bible. She left it to me. As for those old college books that explained the way things really are, I don’t know what became of them. They are somewhere I suppose.
This is a work of fiction dedicated to those who teach us the most important lessons of all, those who love us. –edward reed 2018