Friday, May 13, 2011

Layover Cake

This week when I picked up my grandchildren from school, I heard the request for the third week in a row. “Did you get the things we need to make a cake today?” my granddaughter asked. For two weeks I'd managed to dodge the issue and knew it would cause great disappointment to make another excuse. Since I've been seriously trying to kick my addiction to chocolate and all things sweet over the last several months, my primary reason for declining the opportunity to bake lay in the personal struggle I'd have with the end product. Making up my mind I could handle the confrontation, I asked what kind of cake she'd like to make so we could stop on our way home to get the ingredients needed.

“A layover cake,” she said immediately. I knew exactly what she meant, but pressed her further to enjoy her six year old explanation. “What do you mean?” I asked sneakily. “You know, it's the kind where you make two round cakes and then you take one of them and you lay it over the other one like this,” she said, laying one hand atop the other to demonstrate. “What flavor do you want to make?” I asked, cringing and praying it wouldn't be chocolate. Chocolate it was! And chocolate frosting to boot! And could she frost it herself she asked? Smiling, I wondered how I could resist,her big brown eyes and the brown chocolate cake? Better start planning on the ride to the grocery store just how I'm planning to avoid getting caught in between the layers of a “layover cake.”

When we stopped by the meat counter to get some bacon, I watched as my granddaughter read the labels of each and every package before she and her brother managed to topple four packages of liver mush. “Here's some stuff for 'old-timers' like you, Neenie,” my grandson interjected as they scrambled to put them back on the shelf. It was only last week, I was called 'elderly' for the first time by these two beautiful babes who have never used the name grandma to address me. “What is up with the 'elderly and old timers' comments?” I asked. They both just broke into a chuckle as I scratched my head and quickly chose what looked like the healthiest turkey bacon in the bunch.

When we arrived home, my granddaughter donned her apron as I gathered the measuring cups and readied the mixer. I watched as she pulled up her little stool and began pouring the mix into the bowl. Without any explanation, I found she knew just what to do. She added the liquids and cracked the eggs one at a time, even turning on the mixer without help as I stood by thinking of the journey it takes to get to such a place of independence. I remembered the times of preparation for this day as I had instructed both she and her brother in the how to's of baking. Safety precautions and lessons in measurement were mixed with the joy of taste testing and decorating. I felt a sense of satisfaction twisted up with a feeling of loss. The thought flickered across my mind there would come a day when I was no longer needed to complete a task such as this one. I suppose the words 'old-timer' and 'elderly' also seemed to rise from somewhere in the back of mind. “My job is obviously not complete yet,” I thought, as I helped her pour the heavy bowl of batter into the two pans.

A “...layover cake....” Two layers...and one would “lay over” the other, my little one had said. Wikipedia's definition of “layover” when it concerns long distance travel via plane, train, or inter-city bus is “a break a passenger must take between vehicles in a multi-vehicle trip. This break allows for a change of crews or for the crew to rest. As might be expected many inter-city and international travelers face layovers during their journeys.

When I think of how my life touches that of my grandchildren, it could be compared to such a journey. These days I seem to require more rest than I once needed and as I recently discovered when attempting a game of 'freeze tag' with the aforementioned grandchildren, learned I am no longer skilled at darting, stopping and starting this particular game requires. Similarly, the last leg of my journey may require more “layovers” as I break and find times of rest before moving on to the next destination in my life. It may be necessary to spend some time at the terminal after departing one season before boarding the next. With increasing years comes a responsibility to acknowledge one's limitations. I confess, I've stubbornly held on to the idea that I'd forever be able to continue at the same pace, hoping for the same legs I'd enjoyed at thirty.

When visiting nursing homes and the sick, I've discovered our culture places little value in the elderly and those who are sick and waning in physical strength. We often forget the valuable deposits they've made in our lives. While changing my diet and eliminating chocolate and sweets was a decision to place value in my physical health, I cannot discount the value of lessons learned while passing along a legacy of baking a “layover cake.” There will come a day, and I am so thankful it will be years from now, my grandchildren will have families of their own. When that day comes, the memories of “layover cakes” and tumbling liver mush will sustain me as I watch more and more from the sidelines. Perhaps then they will instruct me in safety precautions and warnings to “turn off the stove.” I have an idea that the love we shared while making “layover cake” and my feeble attempts at freeze tag will be like the yummy chocolate frosting binding those layers together.

And “Yes, I did partake... one piece....what's an elderly, old-timer to do? I'm still good for a critique of the recipe. May I say it was “yummy.”


  1. Oh Robin this post just filled my heart with joy, Layover cake indeed! And oh the thoughts you think and share with us, you made my day so much richer. Those kids have such a wonderful Grandma! That cake looks pretty darn good! Love you so much! Tren

  2. Robin, I am from Gurley Girl and The Gang. I really enjoyed your latest post. Amazing writing and imagery. Tears and laughing at several points. I will be back. Just curious how you came across my blog as well? Chandi


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