This story is by Dorinda Priebe and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Sheer curtains flutter ever so slightly at the edge of the half- raised windows. Early light, birds talking, the smells of flowers drift in that only June can produce. Cool now, the promise of growing heat in the rays of light just entering the room.
Pushing back her hair, she slides quietly from the cool cotton sheets, the unmoving back on the other side of the bed indicating she is waking no one else.
A little thrill at the memory of a morning like this one, full of promise, fully 10 years ago now.
Shorter hair then. Hardly needing any make-up, never imagining how her future self would envy her figure, her youthful glow, her sense of promise.
On tiptoe, down the stairs, fairly holding her breath to remain alone and begin her intention.
Carefully drawing a treasure from the fridge, layers of perfection baked the day before, now ready to be transformed. Cream the butter, warm from an overnight on the counter in the antique bowl that had been her Grammie’s. Sugar blended, tints of color, palest cream, slightly rosebud.
Green depression glass plate, another of Grammie’s legacies, accepts the developing creation; bottom, fill, top, smoothing around the sides, circling the blade, crumb layer capturing the cake, readying for the art to begin.
This is how we start anything. A base layer, the springboard of every beginning.
Humming a love ballad as she turned and shaped, her mind stretching back to those far away days. All those months of existing apart, he, accepting a perfect career so far away, she remaining behind to launch her own.
Long distance relationships, often complex at best…
Late night phone calls, almost-daily love letters, would the gap between now and ever-after finally close?
At last, the calendar page turns, the final countdown is on.
June, the month of matrimony.
Remembering the very first visit to the home of a wise woman of years who designed and made wedding cakes. Her proud showing of her pans, graduated in size to create a towering masterpiece. Listening carefully to the wishes described, not even making a sketch or a note, she could see it in her minds’ twinkling eye. Her specialty? Brides.
All of the bustle, from planning with lifelong girlfriends through showers and flowers, dresses and decorations, each activity in actuality a tearing away, a last promise kept, in a sense, a parting gift.
Smooth on another layer of frosting, first adding to the sides, turning the plate, the offset spatula carving creamy and flat. Continuing along the top, back and forth with the blade. Evenly covering, preparing like a canvas. Fill the pastry bag, select the decorative tips.
Slipping out of the house on that long ago morning, father as accomplice, wedding cake picked up and delivered to the hall, flowers to the church, everything in place ahead of the bustle of dressing and harried hairstyles at the homestead. Heartstrings tugging, every moment closer to when she would walk down the aisle and out of their lives into a new one a thousand miles away.
Piping a fluted edge, one swirl of buttercream at a time. Switch tips. Rows of dots like pearls. Around and around. Deep in memories to the rhythm of the cake design. Where do the years catch up with the dreams?
Inner music always flows, bits of melodies that carry us along, a beat like a heart, setting a life tempo.
Corsages pinned, photos capture forever the pride, longings, the vestiges of convention. Just for the moment, family rivalries simmer down, everyone becomes caught up in the promise of the day, playing out their roles in the spiral of the wedding dance.
Confection roses, one petal at a time, blushing as they twist from the classic Wilton tip and take their places on the smooth cake top.
Being apart this long, what will it be like to fall in love all over again?
Cans rattling, horns honking. Two blocks away, another couple raucously celebrated, while a woman drops to the suburban curb in tears, no-one could have impressed on her how hard the first year could be. Year three, the risk of a financial first house decision. Could enough money be saved for a down payment? Would interest rates ever come down? Cleared the bar, now in debt seemingly a lifetime. Classes and careers, friends that become like relatives, thinly blanketing the longing occasionally breaking through for establishing traditions.
Exploring new avenues; art, music, parties, shopping. Gliding on skates over frozen suburban ponds or indoor rinks in bitter winters, fishing a golf ball out of a pond in the summer heat.
Year four, a “missed pregnancy”, creates an unexpected, surprising and deeper desire to launch a family. Year five, a sudden job opportunity, was it the right time to move back across the continent? Should she? Could she? Back to family, back to the rugged Northeast, starting over it would be, really. Determination required.
The blue stick indicator on the edge of the bathroom sink. Confirmed. Seals the deal. Time to close this chapter as “young marrieds”, on their own, existing on the fringes of an enormous city, and relocate to their roots.
A healthy baby well on the way, a brand- new home awaited, barely finished on a coarse plot of cleared forest. Re-entry to relatives, funerals, anniversaries and expectations previously unreachable. What it is to return “home”. Pick up the threads of relationships, create new ones. Settle in.
Year seven, another miscarriage.
Can she even trust her body? Fall and winter, depression and sickness, and then found ~ with child! Terrifying, after all the medication and debilitation, but learning to trust God. Ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes. The rush of accumulated anxiety, washed over by relief.
A household expanding. Years march on, projects and child rearing and the leaning in to be part of the larger family, the wider community, a local congregation.
Fine decorating tip. Time to say something. Lost for words. How to sum up 10 years? It wasn’t what she thought it would be. Somehow, finishing well was always just beyond her grasp, just like this cake. Discontent? Not exactly. Life, full, and rich, exceeds the limits of human imagination. But when do any of us truthfully feel like we are…there? Can it measured in the sum of the trials we have overcome? From the number of houses or children we are blessed with? How many aspirations attained?
Upstairs, the sounds of stirring, the peace of the morning will soon give way to the reality of truly living. Today’s demands to be met, the joys to share, fresh unknowns sidling in before we sip our first coffee.
Maybe just for today, can we live in the moment, open our eyes to all that is around us, believe in the value of what has been accomplished? Revel in everything entrusted to us by our Creator to nourish and sustain, and simply be grateful? Take our vows seriously, and keep no record of wrongs?
The light through the window is dimming, clouds are rolling in as the light breeze turns to strong wind, heralding the first thunderclap of the year. Perhaps this was the rain that was to have brought a bride good luck, a decade late.
“Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.”
This is our portion, our slice of cake that we get to have and eat too. God is, and has been, in control.
Out of time. Little room left to script many words. Squeezing the pastry bag with just enough frosting to get her message in place. Let’s keep it simple…
Happy 10th Anniversary,
“I’m forever yours, faithfully”