Grandmother's Magic Cake

By John Latta
Executive Editor
[email protected]

There are times that turn you, change you, and you feel yourself moving through them like a sailing ship, standing there watching yourself being shaped by the winds and the currents with a limited amount of input into what is happening.

We try so hard to shape ourselves, to determine what will happen to us, to choose our circumstances and to fight back against everything that gets in the way. But sometimes life brushes aside our efforts and moves us with winds and currents.

I remember as a young man reading John Lennon saying something like “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making plans for your life.” Not an original thought, but the idea struck me and stayed with me.

But it’s hard to live every moment unfettered by the needs of the day. That would be ideal, but our working lives get in the way. Paychecks do not respect outbursts of individuality, and rarely do the people that sign them.

But sometimes while we are wondering whether to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take up arms against them, we find we have become new people. We see things a little differently. Some things are less important to us, and others have become more important. Things we once worried about we let come and go with a smile, and we find ourselves drawn to cases or causes that had previously left us unmoved. Our values have shifted as if an earthquake had moved them.

A driver may look out on a wet Monday morning highway and feel a calm he hasn’t felt in years. A driver may come home from three weeks out and find himself a better parent than when he left because the sons and daughters he felt uncomfortable or frustrated around now seem like friends he’s coming home to, still imperfect, but now it doesn’t matter. A driver waiting at scales may catch himself with a crystal-clear vision of a troubling relationship, aware of the core problem and it’s solution. A driver may one hot evening find himself making a major decision he had not known was in need of making and smiling in satisfaction because he has just discovered a clear road into the future.

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Over-the-road driving is often a tenuous thing. You work behind the wheel with the knowledge that it’s a tough industry and you can’t let your guard down. Gotta keep driving miles. Gotta keep your wits about you so they are paying miles, paying your expenses, paying for that little extra jingle you need in your pocket.

But we can’t entirely shape ourselves. If we insist we can, we eventually become someone that is a little bit of everything we try to be. We need to be someone who is at least in part a creation of inspiration. And part of us needs to be just a little unpredictable, even unto ourselves. Underneath the working clothes, the tough hands, the highway eyes and the driver’s mindset is you. Maybe you have the soul of a poet or an indomitable spirit “yearning to breathe free.”

If you watch a true artist paint or musician play, you understand that technical expertise is not at the heart of what you see and hear. Watch a grandmother make a cake, a wonderful, magical, utterly delicious cake that is something you adore and can’t find anything like it anywhere else. She doesn’t measure exactly, doesn’t remember the recipe precisely and will tell you that the secret ingredient is love. Aaah, but what a cake it is!

Age is perhaps the best example of something that changes you. Having children changes you, a new spouse, a death in the family, an illness – they can all remake you. Driving a truck day after day, week after week demands that you be that person you have built, that professional who delivers what he says he will, who keeps roads safe and families fed and growing. But there’s a you that’s not a truck driver. Let that person grow and change. Toss that truck driver fa