A Mother and her platinum blond three-year-old walked on the sidewalk in front of me en route to Starbucks this morning. The little one had sparkly sandals, a gingham sundress and wayward ringlets which bounced in stride. The sight reminded me of my curly-haired toddler who wore enough glitter to make Dolly Pardon blush.
Curly girl peeled off the right while her mom continued walking. Noticing she was suddenly alone, the mom turned, scanned the patio and said, “Violet, we have to get our drinks first, remember?”
Violet clearly did not remember. She averted her eyes in embarrassment and exhaled an, “Oh, yea” with a sheepish grin in a slow-motion, “Whaaa-whaaa” sort of way, dragging to the entrance. I held the door for Violet and told her that her sandals were fabulous. Her mom prompted a “thank you,” which Violet dutifully sighed, likely exhausted by having to hear how adorable she is all day every day. Which I totally get. None of.
As mother and daughter approached the counter I could feel the rising heat flush my face and tears fill my eyes. I was glad to have just enough space between the Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Tower and the Kati Kati display to hang back and gather myself with a deep breath. I mean Oprah is certainly known to bring out my ugly cry but I didn’t think the barista would buy that cover story.
With cleared throat, I ordered and beheld through bleary eyes Starbuck’s line of La Boulange pastries. Boulange being the one word I remember from my trip to Paris. It means bakery. Not to be confused with Crap-erie…that’s where they make crepes… I know, right? (insert joke here) As I stood there admiring the cakes, a redemptive seed-thought was planted in my mind. I’ve found God to be a particularly extravagant sower of such these days.
I creamed my coffee, returned to my car and this time held my tears until safely inside. As I missed Maggie Lee, both her toddler years but would be her senior year of high school this year, the phrase “time heals all wounds” crossed my mind. But that was not the seed and frankly experience tells me that this statement is not entirely accurate. Time obviously softens the blow but healing is different matter altogether. What has proven true is the idea of time not healing all wounds but rather time affording one the opportunity to make friends with disappointment.
What those who have been through these tragedies: divorce, cancer, bankruptcy, rejection, abuse, betrayal and downsizing share in common is the disappointment that life will never again be the same as it was. Obviously this takes quite some time to accept. Our paradigm is blown and we find ourselves in some surreal, overly-dramatic beginning of a bad Hallmark Channel movie. Not even a good one. Loss is jarring to say the least. Honestly, life hands and God allows some shockingly challenging times on earth; for instance the recent beheading of journalist James Foley. What tremendous grace his parents John and Diane have shown in the face of their graphic loss.
But there is always the rest of the story; so now to the seed part. Like a pastry left in La Boulange’s oven too long (nothing is actually baked at Starbucks, mind you) at times life is like a burnt cake. We begin with such great expectations of how our cakes will turn out. The picture in our minds is so pretty and the icing-waves so perfect. We measure, sift and and follow directions perfectly yet the burning occurs. Or maybe someone intentionally adjusts the temperature when we are not looking. Or, perhaps we ignore the directions, set the oven on 450 and get a drive-through daiquiri. (All hail Shreveport!) Through either no fault of our own, our complete doing or somewhere in-between, we have a burned cake.
Left with what remains, we have choices to make. We can memorialize the cake, shellac it and pipe the words, “This crap cake is not AT ALL what I expected.” That way each time we pass we can be freshly disappointed, our pain vindicated. That’s one way to go. Or, we can throw the cake away and completely disappear because it is just too much to face and no one has ever pulled such a horrible specimen out of their oven. But still there is another way; we can do what people have been doing with their disappointment for centuries: simply make the most of what we have been given. Breathe deeply, trim the edges and gracefully coat it with colossal amounts of icing.
Isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together perfectly? I love that. When we can bring the fat-laden comfort casseroles to someone else and send rather than receive the sympathy cards. We love our comfort, the beauty of a life following our script and moist cakes browned to perfection. But unfortunately at times life hands us a volcanic doozy in a smouldering bunt pan.
So I proudly share membership with you in the charred cake club. My cajun masterpiece is slathered with icing and leaning with gusto. It looks like something Cindy Lou-Who would whip out for the Christmas feast rather than a $4.00 cupcake you’d pair with your tall coffee of the day. I have a feeling yours may have crispy edges under the fondant as well if you’ve lived long enough. The great news? We get points for even our wonky cakes. It’s called the life we get to live: one more day with endless possibility. Every day you persevere, trim and slather. It may be a far cry from the picture on the box but its yours and its beautiful.