The things I could write about pound cake. I could go on and on and bore you to death, so I think I will.
After my father died, I remember visiting a Methodist church with my boyhood friend, and he was introducing me to people. He was raised Methodist, I was not. My people were Baptist.
The Methodists were cheerful. My people didn’t believe in cheer. Our pastor preached hard against alcoholism and promiscuity because these things could lead to dancing.
My friend pointed to one lady in the congregation. She was slight, with gray hair, and a blue skirt suit.
There are some people you don’t forget. She was one of those people. She had a heavenly glow. People smiled when they passed by her like she was unique.
“Who’s that woman?” I asked.
“That is the Pound Cake Lady,” my pal said in reverence.
After the Methodist service, my friend led me to a downstairs fellowship hall. The Methodists put out a bigger spread than any I’d ever seen. There was even a special table dedicated to cornbread and biscuits.
It was too much. Overwhelming. I even saw people standing outside the fellowship hall, smoking cigarettes after their meal. It was as though they were unwinding after sin.
The woman in the blue skirt suit placed something on the end of the table. It was golden, fat, hulking, sacred pound cake.
“Hurry and get some,” said my friend, “before it’s all gone.”
He was right. The cake didn’t last four seconds among those chain-smoking Methodists. But when it disappeared, the old woman replaced it with another.
People blessed her name forevermore. Hallelujah. And so did I.
So every church has a pound cake lady. They are young, middle-aged, or elderly, and they are holy. These ladies are messengers, sent to humanity as proof that God is not gluten-free. He loves white flour, sugar, and butter, no matter what diet books say.
If you have doubts whether your congregation has a pound cake lady, just ask your church secretary. She knows their phone number by heart.
Years later, I met a young woman at a similar potluck. She was brunette, Baptist, with brown eyes. She and I became friendly and spent time together.
One summer, she invited me to go with her family on their annual vacation.
Her family rented a house in Indian Pass, Florida, on the Gulf. When I arrived, I found the place filled with people. They were crammed in that little house, eating raw oysters, laughing, and carrying on. There were so many that some had to sleep on coffee tables and in bathtubs. I felt out of place.
The girl’s mother showed me to my bedroom, which was down the hall from the brunette’s room.
The woman said, “This is where you sleep. I’m right across the hall. And remember, I can hear whenever your door opens.”
And I knew that if I tried to exit my room past curfew—even to visit the little boys’ room—I would wake up graveyard dead.
I fell asleep that night wondering why I was there, on vacation with a happy family. I didn’t belong to these people. I’d never belonged anywhere. Ever since boyhood, I had a hard time fitting in.
My family was nothing like this family. We were broken, and about as unstable as rickety stool.
The next morning I awoke to a pleasant smell that flooded the house. It was a familiar aroma. I followed it down stairs.
There, I found everyone awake. A big man dressed in seersucker, a woman wearing pearls, a lady with a big sun hat, and several others. They were all singing, “In the Garden.”
They asked me to join the singing, so we all sang together and I wondered if these people were fugitives from the Searcy nuthouse.
Then some lady said, “We’re so glad to have you here, Sean.”
Everyone agreed with her. And I don’t know why, but I nearly cried.
And that smell. It was so strong. It smelled like being hugged. Like vanilla. Like prayer meetings on warm Saturday evenings. Like looking at a midnight sky over the Gulf of Mexico.
From the kitchen came the brunette. Young. Smiling. She carried a plate. On the dish was the source of the smell. A slice of warm, yellow, dense pound cake.
Everyone stopped singing. They behaved reverently when she passed by. Boys removed their hats and held them over their hearts.
And the family watched me take my first bite. A bite that would change my life forever.
I told you, I could go on and on about pound cake and bore you to death. But I won’t.
I just wanted to tell you how I came to marry the Pound Cake Lady.