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Cake For a Heartbreak

Guest Author Caroline Zuendel

Ever the pragmatist, I don’t bake a cake unless there is a reason to bake one; a celebration of some variety. When I dumped on my career coach a trifecta of recent heartaches, he told me to bake a cake today. I thought, yeah right I don’t need those unnecessary calories hanging around, and there is no celebration to think of. But I have shared with him my sometimes closeted obsession with food and making it better, more pure, more clean; flavor that doesn’t mingle with commercialized chemicals, spices that tickle your tongue just to remind your senses they are alive and well. Finding and creating food in a way that God intended our bodies to be nourished, not necessarily something that the mainstream food industry finds beneficial to their bottom line. He’s been right about other things, so I put on my favorite music and baked a cake!

The heartbreak trifecta, as I will endearingly call it, came mostly unexpectedly. I found out on one day that my new job would not have room in their budget for me next quarter, as much as they had hoped to keep me on. The next day, the veterinarian called me to have a very candid conversation with me that I should prepare myself to say goodbye to my dog sooner rather than later. And then through a series of events, I realized that this sweet man I had been dating, and myself are on different paths. In the most agonizing leg of the heartbreak trifecta, I had to say goodbye to him and his arms that have felt like home since I first met him four years ago. A couple of weeks ago, I had a great job, was oblivious to the severity of my aging canine friend, and had a boyfriend that I loved and was talking seriously about a future with.

“Bake a cake, Caroline.” No, “bake it and they will come” prophesy; simply bake it, because you enjoy it. My body and heart wants to crawl into bed and go through iterations of trying to read something uplifting, crying my eyes out, mindlessly staring out the window, read, cry, stare, read, cry, stare until the day passes and the proximity of heartache diminishes little by little. I can be a bit melodramatic, but sincere all the same. 😉

When my heart hurts, I become nostalgic. I crave familiarity, a warm place. The apple cake recipe came from my Grandma Hardy’s friend, Edna Golan; hailed from the 60s, when I was barely a twinkle in my mom’s eye. I remember my dad, who adored his inlaws, also loved this cake. You’re supposed to chop up the apples and allow them to brown. Why brown? I am not sure, but I do believe a little bit of wear and tear adds character to all good things, so while I could research the reason, I would rather believe this cake has a little bit of character baked into it. And as the smell of it’s homey comfort wafts through the oven doors, I am certain that is true.

I’ve moved around so much in my life that home isn’t a place for me. Home is an idea, a familiarity, a feeling. I remember the first and subsequent times I held hands with this man, and it felt like coming home. Have two hands ever fit so perfectly together? We watched the sunrise on Emerald Isle, and when I looked over at him, trying to make sense of him all those years ago, I felt certain that we had a long story ahead. I am missing home.

In a tangible home, we add trinkets and pieces of furniture, remove what no longer serves us, and yet it is still home. The idea of home, is no different. Every place I have lived, every person I have met has added to my home, or been sent off with a piece that I no longer need but perhaps serves them. That is the beauty of a transitory idea of home, it can exist anywhere, in any environment; and it thrives in plenty and in austerity because it flows from the heart and is not confined to brick and mortar.

The apple cake recipe is a piece of home to me, but I have made it my own like many things in my home; I have added more spices, because who doesn’t like a little, “hmm what is that? I like that!” surprise. Zee spice of life! My home consists of pieces of homes from the past, some from families that were not my own, but showed me that blood ties don’t hold a candle next to love ties. The beauty of home as an idea, is that I can meld it into my aspirations for a legacy that I want to leave behind. I can take pieces from what I have seen in thriving homes, and make it mine, exponentially growing and passing on the gifts of love given to me, letting go of the pieces that do not serve my hopes and dreams. The recipes that I tweak are no different. I take something already great, and I make it my own, I put my stamp on it; and sometimes it flops, sometimes it is just okay, but other times, it is amazing!

I can’t say that I am terribly sad about being cut from the budget in my new job, that’s a piece I will comfortably concede. The precious pieces we give up, those are harder. Days ahead, all too soon, will lack a goofy sweet friend who has seen me through some of my darkest days. His quirky idiosyncrasies, I will mourn their absence and every other dog will have to live up to his legacy. I will ache for strong arms that held me while we spoke of a beautiful future together. I will miss the lightness I found laughing until it hurt, basking in the smile that so clearly held love and warmth for me. Those are pieces of home I mournfully pass on. But the celebration is in having held them, even for a moment. To have been honored to give and hold love, is one of the greatest gifts of life. To have the capacity to love, and to put it into action, that is a celebration. So, I baked a cake and put a little love in it.

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