For nearly 50 years my older sister, younger brother and I have gathered at my mother’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. Upon reflection, my mother’s life was hard as she raised three children, each with their own distinctive personality. Disputes were common, as I suppose exist in every family. Yet, each Thanksgiving, we children dutifully traveled “home to Mom’s” to gather for the feast, exchanged stories of our lives during the past year, recollected memories, and expressed our gratitude for all that we have been blessed with.
An early tradition, started before I can recollect, was the baking of a square pound cake by my mother. Out from the oven it would pop, usually early in the morning of Thanksgiving Day, in order that the huge turkey and stuffing could then dutifully enter the oven. The pound cake’s aroma would fill the house, making each of us even hungrier for the Thanksgiving meal and trimmings (and desserts) to come.
Yet, by mid-day, each and every Thanksgiving, an event would occur which would rock the up-to-then quiet gathering and throw us all into a state of bewilderment, excitement, and – dismay. The corner of the cake would disappear!
That’s right. Someone, and no one knew precisely whom, snuck into the kitchen at some point when the cooks were absent, and each time this bandit had cut off a small corner of the cake. Who was this courageous yet somewhat greedy burglar, we wondered?
My older sister, Terry, was always the forceful commandant of her two younger brothers. Terry played a large role in raising both me and my younger brother when my mother was, at times, working long hours. Hence, Terry, our “all-knowing” sister with a forceful personality, dutifully pointed her finger each time at my younger brother, John.
Of course, everyone thought, it had to be John! Throughout his life, my little brother John, six years my junior, has always been the mischievous one. A bundle of energy, he always managed to fit eight activities into each day, when everyone else was happy to partake in just a few happenings and outings. During each family gathering John always creatively came up with a new adventure – some new outing to a park or lake to undertake, or a family photo to gather and pose for. Now called “Uncle John,” his daughters, nephew and nieces adore him for all of the activities he schedules and the excitement he continues to infuse into every family gathering.
I naturally concurred with the guilt assigned by my sister, each and every time. Yes, no doubt, if anyone was to blame, it had to be John. Of course, my brother John denied guilt. But, having been such a rascal for so long, few believed him!
However, my mother was not so quick to cast blame. In her quiet wisdom she surveyed all of us, each time, casting her glance – as if the guilt of the “cake corner thief” would somehow reveal itself merely because my mother wished it. To my surprise, it seemed that each and every time my mother, when alone with me at some point during the day, would accuse me for being the culprit and robber of the lost corner of the cake – which of course I would vehemently deny to her. I was always the “good son” – quiet, studious, honest, and reliable were my traits. Naturally, such a crime could never be committed by one so devoted to hard work and integrity. The fact that my mother questioned me, each year, so inquisitively, always made me feel as if my mother did not appreciate one so pure of heart and mind.
Years later I discovered that my older sister, Terry, and younger brother, John, would also each experience separate interrogations from my mother, and each would steadfastly issue their denials. I felt relieved upon realizing that I was not singled out by my mother for such interrogations.
And so the “cake corner thief” saga continued, year after year, Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving, until a few years ago. For then … we caught the thief!
My brother, John and I, back from some adventure he had created for me, strode through the back door of my mother’s home in the late morning of one Thanksgiving. As we unexpectedly turned the corner into the kitchen, we caught our sister – red-handed! With knife in one hand, and a corner of the cake in another, she nearly jumped through the ceiling when my brother and I each shouted: “Aha!” A ruckus occurred, as my sister, Terry, tried her best to come up with an excuse. But it was too late. She had been caught in the act itself, and no denial could take place.
Upon hearing the commotion in the kitchen from her children, my mother arose from her comfortable chair in the living room and quickly traversed into the kitchen. My daughters, and those of my brother John, and my sister’s son, also ran into the kitchen. My mother, upon arriving, looked down at the cake, with its missing corner, and then looked (sternly yet with a wry smile) at each of us. My brother and I explained what had happened (necessary since our sister had already quickly consumed the evidence, although she was still in the act of swallowing the last morsel when my mother arrived). While my sister attempted to deny the entire event at first, soon she admitted to our mother her guilt on that day. Yet, strangely, she denied guilt for all of the cake corner thievery which had occurred over the decades, each prior Thanksgiving Day. (We didn’t believe her!)
My sister avowedly promised, in the presence of us all (including her five nieces and her son, all now gathered around the kitchen table, and all now well-aware of the Thanksgiving cake corner thief tradition), to never take a corner of the pound cake again. My sister is a proud, honorable and hard-working person; she has always been one to keep her word, once given. I, for one, believe her.
Since then, as our family continues to gather for Thanksgiving, every late Thanksgiving morning and within a few hours of the pound cake being baked a new mystery occurs. The corner of the cake still disappears!
Yet, I do not believe it is my sister this time. Rather, I believe a new, unknown perpetrator from the next generation has taken over the lifelong commission of the crime – one of my sister’s five nieces (now age 26 to 8 in age). Of course, it may be many years or decades before the next cake corner thief is ensnared and revealed to all.
As you gather with family and friends for Thanksgiving Day, take a moment to express gratitude to those you love, and to those who love you. Give them a long hug. Tell them how much they mean to you. Don’t allow the moment to pass.
And, as you build another fond memory of a gathering with friends and family this coming Thanksgiving weekend, beware the cake corner thief. For … you never know when I may strike!
Travel safely, and Happy Holidays. - Ron Rhoades