When my husband and I were getting married, money was tight- we were paying for most of it and I shopped around like a crazy woman for cakes, tailoring, and photography. Back then $10 could mean the difference between affording something or doing without (I still refer to this as 'the time of Ramen').
I can remember finding my cake lady in the newspaper. I went to visit with her at her house before hiring her.
Then I noticed something on her wall. It was a picture of her son.
Her son was about my age and I recognized him instantly. I knew him from my honor's freshman introductory class.
Her son was remarkable in that I was always taken back by his attitude. He smiled constantly, and didn't have a mean bone in his body. I never knew him to be impatient or lacking a grin. He was intelligent and careful to choose his words, measured them to keep from damaging anyone.
He had dark hair, was slightly overweight (probably from things beyond his control) and was in a wheelchair.
The next year my professor that taught the class told me that he had died. I think I sent a card, but quite honestly I had avoided the funeral. I was tired of hurting from Adam's death ( a different friend) and I wanted to remember him alive. If I had it to do over again I would have gone, I recognize now how important it is to just show up, even without words.
Here his mother was, she noticed instantly when recognition hit my face. I told her that I knew her son.
I was a bit afraid. Would she hate being around me?
But she called her husband in. The man that had almost ignored me as I came in was standing now, listening intently.
What should I say?
So I started to talk about him as I would to any parents of someone that I liked or admired. I talked about what a nice person he was, about his smile.
Before we left, she let it slip that she had just started her baking business to pay off bills. Bills, I now recognize, that were probably from her son.
I now know why his parents were so eager to hear about their son, and to hear his name on my lips. I recognize that pained hunger in me to hear my son mentioned as a person again. To them, and to me, memories without me that others share are now the only way to gain new ones.
My mother told me about how Perry would chuckle as she lifted him above her head and did "Perry-Berry" exercises. I can only distinctly remember Perry chuckling one time on my bed. He made a lot of almost laughter with me. I am glad he was sharing this new found sound that bubbled from his lips with my Mother.
His parents were getting a small glimpse of their son at college. That he was a good person as they thought, that others remembered him. They might have teared up, but they needed to hear.
I now wonder how much it hurt his mother to bake a cake for me. Was it just sadness, or a strange way of making a cake for her son, doing a favor for someone he knew? I don't know. But it was beautiful. You would have been hard pressed to find any cake for the amount she charged us.
If I met her, what might she say to me? I only hope that what I gave her was enough.