Wednesday, January 6, 2010
During Christmas, Gracie crawled into my lap and announced that we were going to play a game.
“Great. What’s the game?” I asked.
“I don’t know, silly,” she said. “You have to think of one.”
Fortunately, I once taught a class at How to be a Great Uncle School about impromptu stories and games-on-the-fly. Halfway up my sleeve I found exactly what we needed.
“Gracie,” I asked, “if you could open MiMi’s magic oven and find any treat baked inside, what treat would you find?”
Without thinking, she said “Chocolate Cake.”
“Not peanut butter cookies or a roasted buffalo?”
“No, Uncle Bryan, (smiling) Chocolate Cake!”
MiMi is what Gracie calls my mother, her grandmother. MiMi didn’t invent chocolate cake, but she might have perfected it. She bakes chocolate cake well and often – especially when her grandchildren are spending the night.
“Gracie, if you could open the magic closet in MiMi’s bedroom and find an exciting something hidden behind her clothes, what would you find?”
“Not a house for your Barbies or a dress made of diamonds?”
“No, Uncle Bryan, (with a giggle) Chocolate Cake!”
Other than pizza and peanut butter with honey sandwiches, chocolate cake is the only thing Gracie eats voluntarily. Everything else is consumed under duress and only to earn a reward, often of chocolate cake.
“Gracie, If you could open MiMi’s magic backdoor and go anywhere in the universe – even if it’s an imaginary place nobody has ever been to – where would you go?”
“Somewhere that has lots and lots of Chocolate Cake!”
“Not Sesame Street or a pineapple under the sea?”
“No, Uncle Bryan (losing control), somewhere with Chocolate Cake!”
Squirming with laughter and lost in her own silliness, Gracie begged for more. “Ask another one, Uncle Bryan, ask another one!” How could an uncle resist?
“If you could pick up MiMi’s magic telephone and talk to anyone – even someone who’s not real – who would you talk to?”
“Somebody who knows how to make Chocolate Cake!”
“If you could dig a magic hole in MiMi’s backyard and fill it with anything you can imagine, what would you fill it with?”
“A whole ton of Chocolate Cake!”
“If you could climb into MiMi’s magic bed and dream about anything in the world, what would you dream about?”
“Eating Chocolate Cake!”
Every time Gracie said “Chocolate Cake,” a smile spread across her face and into her eyes. The letters of her words were all mixed with laughter. Her love for the cake is loyal and strong.
Gracie is a creative, clever, and genuinely funny girl whose six-year-old imagination skips across ideas like a rock across water. That’s why, when our game started, I expected her to travel through space, talk to the tooth fairy, and swim in a pool of marshmallows.
Apparently, I underestimated Gracie’s imagination. It takes a very powerful love – and a very clever girl – to find cake in every question.
One day, however, Gracie will discover the beauty of things like new books, old movies, the sound of her mother’s voice, the touch of her lover’s hands, cold lemonade, and fresh snow. All these things will eventually find homes in Gracie’s heart – but she will always love chocolate cake.
When stupid boys make fun of her glasses, Gracie’s mother will sit with her on the couch and there will be chocolate cake.
When boys stop being stupid and one finds the nerve to ask Gracie on her first date, her best friend will squeal with delight and there will be chocolate cake.
When she graduates from high school, and college, and feels hope in her future, there will be chocolate cake.
When the economy plummets and she can’t find a job, there will be chocolate cake.
When a man asks her to marry him, there will be chocolate cake.
When she fights with the man and they say hurtful things to each other and she thinks about leaving, there will be chocolate cake.
When she sells her first painting or gets a promotion, there will be chocolate cake.
When her babies have birthdays, there will be chocolate cake.
When the biopsy comes back negative, there will be chocolate cake.
And finally, after enjoying a life full of flour, sugar, and cocoa powder, Gracie will sit at a kitchen table with her grandchildren… and there will still be chocolate cake.
If Gracie is as clever as I think she is, she will eventually realize that Chocolate Cake doesn’t really answer every question. The most important questions are better answered with words like “love,” “my family,” “God,” and “I don’t know.”
And if Gracie is as smart as I hope she is, she will also learn to exercise. Otherwise, her love for chocolate cake is going to make her very, very fat.*
* For the record, “fat” is a terrible word and is used here only because Uncle Bryan suffers from an adolescent infection to his sense of humor. Gracie is a perfectly sized six-year-old, and unless her doctors tell her differently, whatever size she grows into will always be exactly the right size.
** Gracie, if the internet is still alive when you’re old enough to read archives of your uncle’s blog, give me a call. I'll tell you silly stories about your brother, we’ll eat cake, and together we can laugh at my receding hairline.