Here's an essay/book chapter that I'm submitting to my writer's group. Genevieve and Nana are the same person. I need to be more intentional about what I call her. It's only a draft. Only a draft on a blog, at that. Warning: it's long. But with any luck you'll get sucked in. Yummy recipe at the end, folks!
It was 1939, a good year to be in
For Genevieve and Nancy, my grandmother and mother, the notion of escape was elusive. They had recently moved to
I don’t know who was more embarrassed, Genevieve, who had to ride the trolley back to the apartment fully dressed and without a change of clothes, or
But here she was, a middle-aged office worker bringing up her only daughter alone. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. She had been the
Whatever the case, by the time the engagement had languished for seven years, Genevieve had taken a job in
Nana waited until the very long train trip was over to break off the engagement to Ken. How tedious the hours must have been, filled with strained conversation.
“How is your mother?”
"Fine, just fine.”
“Genevieve, are you all right? You seem distracted.”
“Oh, no, everything’s fine. I’m just tired is all.”
Nana always said about John, the new man, that he “swept her off her feet.” He had seen her at a dance and was drawn to her laughing eyes and shining auburn hair. So much so that he bragged to a friend, “I’m going to marry that woman!” It didn’t hurt that he was scion to a large fortune either. Nana returned to
It turns out that John was not only rich, but rich, idle, and spoiled. And an alcoholic. Genevieve, not knowing a thing about alcoholism, couldn’t understand why John would be gone for days at a time, and then apologize profusely, or why one time he drove the car through the garage door. When my mother was only a toddler, Genevieve divorced him. She divorced him, a bold move for a woman in the 1930s. John’s mother Inez then offered to pay Genevieve $13,000 if she would give her
“Where’s your mother?” asked Nancy of Carol, as they dug a moat around a lopsided castle. Genevieve, of course, was a few yards away, pretending to be engrossed in a novel.
“She’s not here. She lives in
“My mother is divorced, too!” said
A gentle-looking man came up to Carol. “Carol, honey, we’re going back to the hotel now. . . . Who’s your new friend?”
“This is Nancy Owsley. Her mother is divorced, too!”
“Oh,” he smiled, “I’m pleased to meet you,” he said politely in a mild Southern drawl, as he solemnly shook
“Mrs. Owsley, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance,” murmured Colonel Carne, decades later to be known to me as “Papa.”
"Colonel Carne? How do you do?” Genevieve replied, properly.
And so love began. They became engaged one day later, and married a week after that, and were not separated until Papa’s death in 1974. I was ten when I learned that he wasn’t my “real” grandfather. Nana always told me. “He was my one true love.”
A couple years after Papa’s death, Nana visited her brother Fred in
The cake was a huge hit in our family. Nana, my mother and I each made it several times during my college years and shortly after. The recipe was forgotten for a long time, but right now the cake sits cooling on a baking rack on my counter, smelling rummy and rich, soaking up the sugary glaze. The cake has a new name now. It makes me think of the time, many years ago, when my mother introduced Nana to Papa, on the eve of war, on a small faraway island in the vast blue sea.
True Love Pineapple Cake
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple
2 cups baking mix (I use Bisquick)
1 cup sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
¾ cup sour cream
½ cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons rum
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup pineapple juice
Beat until dissolved.
Drain pineapple well, saving syrup. Stir baking mix, flour, baking powder, and soda together. Beat together sugar and butter until light and creamy. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix.. Add eggs and beat one minute. Add dry ingredients and beat one minute. Mix in drained pineapple and rum. Turn into well-greased bundt pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon half the glaze over it. Let stand 10 minutes. Turn out on serving plate and pour rest of glaze over.