Post # 160 The Summer of Mrs. D

September 2, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 160 The Summer of Mrs. D

First let me say Thank You for being patient with me, and to all those who contacted me to make sure all was right.  There are some changes in my life that are good, but time consuming and I needed to take a little time off to concentrate on those.  Some of them could lead to bigger and better things for my and my family.  So, again, everything’s fine, and thanks for your patience.  Now, on to the blog!

My birthday is at the end of summer, so while all my friends always started school the “right age”, I was always a year younger than nearly everyone I knew.  I was also a small kid, very skinny.  I didn’t start growing until the summer I turned sixteen.  That was the summer I met Mrs. D.

My best friend at the time was Tommy P.  We weren’t inseparable,  but usually when you found one of us, you found the other.  We weren’t alone.  We hung out with all our other friends, too.  Sometimes, his twin sister was around, too.

She was the one who first said, “Let’s go visit Mrs. D.”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

They told me all kinds of stories about what a nice lady she was, and the best baker you’d ever want to meet.  They went on and on about all the things she was interested in and what she could do.  Tommy kept going on about her rhubarb pie.

“It’s the best!” he kept repeating.

I’d eaten rhubarb straight out of the ground before and loved it.  Of course, I was the one who ate dill pickles sandwiches and drank the juice out of the jar because I liked it.

I’d never had rhubarb pie before.  Come to think of it, I’ve never had rhubarb pie.

So we walked to her house just a few blocks away, and she ushered us into her kitchen,  I don’t remember what explanation we gave her, probably something lame like it was hot outside.  We hung out in her kitchen for a couple of hours, then left.  That became our habit that summer.  We’d wander around the neighborhood looking for something to do and end up in Mrs. D’s kitchen.  She seemed to enjoy the company and started putting us to work around the house and yard.  Most of the stuff was easy, but sometimes it was time consuming.  We didn’t grumble too much since we liked her and she was letting us stay inside in the a/c.

At one point, several days after we started going to her house, she asked if anyone wanted cake.

I like cake so I know my face lit up.

“Rhubarb pie!” blurted out Tommy in such a manner that we all started laughing.

“Well, I have some of that, too,” she said.  “But I was thinking more along the lines of baking a fresh cake.  Anyone interested?”

Anyone who’s read this blog for a while, or gone back and read some of the first posts, knows that my first foray into cooking was baking a semi-disastrous cake.  Too much flour made for a dense but delicious cake.  Since that point, when I made cake, it was from a box mix.  It was easier.  So I was very interested to watch Mrs. D.

She bustled around her kitchen on little old lady legs (I bet she wasn’t much older than fifty, but that summer, everyone was old to me.)  She got out all the ingredients, using a recipe she had memorized.  Then she did something I found unusual.

She plugged in an electric coffee pot.

The simple act of making coffee wasn’t odd.  My parents drank the stuff like it was a life-saving elixir.  But the way Mrs. D did it made it seem like it was part of the cake process.

Linda must have been confused too, because she asked, “Oh, won’t the coffee cool off before the cake is ready?”

“No, the coffee is going in the cake.  It makes chocolate taste better.”

I was unconvinced.  I don’t like coffee.  It smells great and tastes terrible.  I don’t even like coffee flavored candy.  Mocha, to me, is a total waste.  But, it was her cake and she went through the process with practiced ease.

I don’t recall the recipe.  It was probably just a standard chocolate cake recipe she had memorized.  But instead of adding water or milk, she used strong coffee.  We watched, asked questions, and waited while everything came together in a bowl then into a pan then into the oven.  Out it came, smelling wonderful and looking great.

When it had cooled enough, she made a sweet white frosting, then sprinkled colored sugar over it lightly.  It was beautiful.  She cut three pieces for her, Linda, and me, then got the rhubarb pie out of the fridge and cut a slice for Tommy.

“Do you want to try some?” she asked me, but I declined.  I wanted cake.

I still haven’t tried rhubarb pie.

So we sat there in companionable silence eating cake and enjoying the heck out of it.  It made the chocolate taste deeper, but I could still taste coffee.  I don’t like coffee.

The rest of the summer was spent like that.  At least once a week, we would sit in her kitchen watching while she baked something good.  A few years later, my older sister had a creative writing assignment that she asked me to look at for grammar and spelling errors.  It started with the line “Mrs. D smells like baking.”  I didn’t know my sister even knew Mrs. D.

I think about Mrs. D often, usually when I’m baking.  I wonder if she knew then or knows now how many lives she touched.

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