The following essay by Eileen Hector really spoke to me--perhaps because I had a similar experience. After my father's passing, I kept a can of Gold Medal Flour on the pantry shelf. It was utterly unusable and more years old than I could count. But it had been his once, an ingredient in a special gravy recipe he made. These inheritances--worthless in monetary terms--are often meaningful. They speak to us of ordinary moments, life's simple pleasures, and remind us that these ordinary moments and simple pleasures are our treasures. We are wise to remember them after our loved ones have moved on, wiser still to appreciate them fully as we live them with our loved ones in present tense.
Eileen's essay is from 2008.
by E M Hector
On the very top shelf in my upper kitchen cabinet, I have a boxed angel-food cake mix. It has a history. Although I enjoy cooking, I’ve never been much of a baker (from scratch or from box), but I want to tell you how it came to be in my cabinet at all and for so long. I’ve had it for a a decade now. Yes, ten years. I’ve often thought of tossing it out, but at this point in time, it has sentimental value that far outweighs any culinary value. Its contents now way beyond expiration, I wouldn’t even dream of making it at this point, although there was a time, years ago when I thought I might.
The cake mix was in my parent’s pantry before my mom passed away in November of 2000. After her passing, I would visit my dad and check his fridge and cabinets to see if he needed anything. My dad remained alone in that house for a little over a year until it was too much for him to care for. My parent’s house was sold and the contents moved into a condo in December 2001. When I helped my dad unpack and put things away in his new home, I knew he wouldn’t ever bake that cake on his own. So I thought I would bring it home and bake it myself. I brought it home with all intentions of baking it someday soon. I’m not even sure that I checked the shelf life; in reality it could have already been expired. I placed it on the top shelf of my kitchen cabinet and every time I’d look in there, I’d say to myself that I really should make that cake! Looking at that angel food cake mix each time I opened the cupboard somehow made me think of my mom, and that was comforting.
My dad passed away in the fall of 2004. His condo was sold and most of its contents of were given to his seven children. There were a few household items that were in high demand and, without argument, we drew names for them. Then there were some things no one was willing to take, for instance, the eight pairs of scissors and 5 pairs of nail clippers that had accumulated in his bathroom. Miscellaneous unclaimed articles were donated to charity. We closed that chapter in our lives as we closed the sale on my dad’s condo in March of 2005.
So here it is. Yes! Eight years later and that darned box of angel food cake mix is still in my cupboard, untouched. I see it every time I open the door to look for something else. I can’t bring myself to toss it out. I’m afraid if I pick up the box it will be… e m p t y… that it really will have become “angel food.” I contemplate that the two spirits now passed on have been gratified by my angel-food thoughts, and by knowing that they have sweetened my soul with good-natured memories.
And that takes the cake! Even if it never was baked!
Read Eileen's other special memories on this blog:
Text, copyright E.M. Hector, all rights reserved.