Five or six years ago when my father was still living, he and Nana Maude came to visit every fall for my son Rory and my husband Charlie’s birthdays- which are only 3 days apart. I wrote about Nana in my last post and in several earlier posts including one about issues concerning her goose down pillow at – http://tenaciousbitch.com/2012/05/25/post-61-macys-alleged-faux-paus/.
We all took a deep breath the minute Dad’s car landed in our driveway – wondering what kind of drama Nana will cultivate this time. I was stirring my chili when Nana hobbled into the kitchen, her short white hair like a disheveled halo around her head as she leaned on her big, red walker. A homemade cake was nestled on the shelf thingy on her walker.
I gave Nana a hug, put the cake on the counter and said, “That was so nice of you to make a Coca-Cola cake. I can’t wait to have some.”
“Well, I hope it turned out all right,” she croaked with another big smile and a twinkle in her eye. She always says that, and to date, I’ve never eaten one of Nana’s pies, cakes, cookies, biscuits or brownies that weren’t delectable.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Southern delicacy known as Coca-Cola cake, it’s a chocolate cake with chocolate icing, which has 1/4 cup of cola in the cake and about 2/3 cup in the icing, which makes both very light and fluffy, and it adds a certain zing to the chocolate flavor.
The next day, Charlie’s mother and stepfather, his grandparents, his Aunt Nancy, his sister Tally and her girlfriend, Melissa, all came down from Cleveland for a cookout/birthday party around noon. And Rory and Heather, his girlfriend at the time, were supposed to be at our house around noon as well.
Around 11:00, I was scurrying around the house – setting out the silverware and a dozen other last minute details when Nana came toddling into the kitchen. She looked at the Coca-Cola cake on the kitchen table with a stack of dessert plates beside it, and she said, “I need to put this up.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Why?”
“I made that for Rory, not for everyone.”
I was immediately annoyed but too busy to argue with her. However, Nana had other ideas. “Nana, there’s plenty of cake to go around,” I said firmly, glancing at the 9″ x 13″ sheet cake. “We won’t cut it until Rory gets here, and I can set aside some for him to take home.”
She shook her head. “No, I made it for Rory,” she said, picking up the cake and sliding it into the cabinet beside the table, “Not for all those other people,” she said as Charlie walked in the room.
“Nana, when you told me you were making a Coca-Cola cake, I didn’t make anything else. What’re we supposed to serve to Charlie’s family?”
Silence and a vacant stare from Nana, followed by a shrug.
“Rory won’t mind to share. In fact, I’m sure he’d insist on it,” I snapped.
“No, I made that cake for my great-grandson, not …” her voice trailed off when she realized Charlie was standing behind me. A glimmer of guilt wavered in her eyes, but I knew she wouldn’t change her mind.
I glared at her, wanting very much to deck the old, selfish crow who just happened to have given birth to my dearly departed mother.
“Nana, I’m getting that cake out, and we’re going to-“
“No,” Charlie sputtered angrily. “I don’t like chocolate cake anyway.”
The hurt and anger I saw pulsing in his eyes sparked a new level of rage against Nana.
“I’ll just go to Kroger and get another cake,” Charlie barked.
You’d think that would elicit a reaction from her, but it didn’t.
“Excuse me,” Nana muttered, looking down. “I’ve got to go to the restroom.” I watched her slump by us, head down, wondering how anyone could be so incredibly selfish.
The moment she left, I looked at Charlie and said, “I’m so sorry, honey. I had no idea-“
“It’s not your fault.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it. As soon as everyone gets here, I’ll put the cake back on the table, and she won’t have the nerve to say one word about it.”
“No,” Charlie said, grabbing his jacket from the coat tree in the living room. “I’m going out to buy another cake, so I’ll have something for my family. I don’t want her fucking cake.”
I nodded. I thought about apologizing again, but there just aren’t enough words in the universe to erase the kind of hurt that Nana frequently bestows on people.
“I can go. It’s your birthday. Why don’t you go sit in-“
“No, I need to get out of here, away from her,” he said.
I nodded, and he turned and walked out.
A few warm tears dribbled down my face. And I grabbed a tissue from the box on the kitchen counter and sat down in a heap on the living room couch. I blew my nose, feeling so embarrassed by Nana’s rude behavior. And I just couldn’t fathom how my overly generous mother could’ve shared the same genes.
And if all that weren’t bad enough, here’s the kicker. When Rory and Heather arrived a few minutes later, I explained the whole dessert dilemma, and my handsome, 21-year-old son – shook his head and said, “I don’t really like that cake. And I’m not big on sweets in general.”
“I know,” I said. “But, I, unlike Nana, don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, even hers, by revealing that info. But even if you loved that cake, you’d never want to hoard it like that.”
“Of course not,” Rory replied.
But at this point, it was too late. Nana had poisoned the Coca-Cola cake, so to speak.
Charlie arrived a few minutes later with a white cake with vanilla icing, which was delicious, btw. And just to piss Nana off, I didn’t eat one single bite of her damned cake. When she asked why I was eating the store bought cake, I just shrugged. She got the hint, but that wasn’t good enough for me…
Three years later after my dad died, she moved in with us. And she constantly asked me to make a Coca Cola cake since wasn’t able to bake anymore, but I never did except one time when I hosted my Writer’s Club meeting last year. I gave everyone generous portions after dinner and huge blocks of cake to take home. And then, I hid the rest in a cabinet that Nana couldn’t reach.
Later, when I was loading the dishwasher, I heard Nana’s walker bumbling down the hallway, and I smiled.
“Well, hello, there, got any cake left?” Nana asked, smiling.
“No, I’m sorry, it’s all gone.”
“You didn’t save me any?” she grumbled, in wide-eyed shock.
“The people in my group had never had it before, so I gave them all some to take home, and Charlie had a piece. Besides, I didn’t make it for you. I made it for my friends.”
Her watery blue eyes turned cold, and tears of anger crested upon her thin, blonde lashes. She turned and stomped out – as best a 95-year-old woman can stomp anyway :).
I slept very well that night. And the words Coca-Cola cake have never graced her dry old lips again.
Over and out from the bitchy baker and her truth-spouting hippies…