TUESDAY: For the Love of Shortcake

BY SALLY BASMAJIAN

Copyright is held by the author.

MY DAD wasn’t big on church. True, he drove us to Sunday services without grumbling and he always basso-profundo-ed a rousing, improvised harmony during hymn-singing. But, he did this out of love for my mom, who insisted we attend. She thought this was what a proper family should do. And, my dad thought my mom was the sun, the moon, and the stars — perfection in white gloves and a well-trimmed hat — and would do anything to make her happy.

I’m sure my dad rued leaving the coziness of his bed to get dressed in a suit and tie, sit on the hardest of hardwood pews, and try to reflect on the glory of God while shifting from one numb butt cheek to another. He must have been relieved as the years passed, because, as we grew, the pressure from my mom diminished. By the time I, the baby of the family, had turned 12, both of my parents stopped churchgoing. And that was that. We never went back.

But when I and my brother and sister were young and my dad dragged himself and the rest of us to church, there was one day each year when he was downright enthusiastic about attending. It was always in June when the church announced the Strawberry Social that my dad found a renewed spurt of religious fervour. Because, if there was any food he adored, it was strawberry shortcake.

And not just any old version of it, either.

According to my dad, our church ruled when it came to producing first rate shortcakes. It took a small army of our congregation’s best bakers to create the most cloud-like of homemade biscuit slabs. They hand-whipped and subtly sweetened the freshest local cream. Most important of all, they cornered the market in small-in-size but huge-in-flavour Ontario strawberries, and practised Christian generosity in lacing them liberally into the final product.

To my dad, the church ladies’ shortcake was manna, food for the soul, and a complete religious experience. Each year, as he took his first bite of that season’s strawberry concoction, his eyes would close and a look of ecstasy would melt away the care creases on his face. I believe he would have spoken in tongues, had his mouth not been so stuffed with creamy strawberry perfection. He never ate more than his share, but he eked out more satisfaction from every morsel than anyone else in the parish. To him, this was heaven on earth.

In the car, on the way home from the annual Social, my dad sang. Reverently. Sincerely. “For the fruit of all creation,” he boomed in his sonorous, deep voice. My mother, in the passenger seat, smiled and used her hankie to wipe an errant streak of whipped cream from his cheek. And we kids sat in the back, stuffed to the brim with strawberry sugariness, for once too full to argue with each other, and knew that all was right in our world.

15 comments

  1. Mary Steer

    God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! 🙂 Sounds like this strawberry shortcake must be on the menu in the afterlife, for sure. Love this slice of life – another good one, Sally!

  2. Patricia Kitteringham

    Strawberries! And strawberry short cake. You describe both so succulently I can almost taste them.

  3. Jazz

    I’m sure most of us have memories of family outings from back in the day. But are they of any interest to others……?

  4. Frank Sikora

    Interesting point, Jazz: a memoir has to engage the reader beyond, “This really nice thing happened to me.” There has to either a universal connection or conflict that triggers the reader’s interest. A moral has to be revealed or an insight worth noting. For me, this story, while lovely in its presentation, did not interest me. Why? I hate strawberry shortcake. So, I was a hard sell from the beginning. Yet, I read the whole piece and noted its strengths: wordplay and rhythm.

  5. Random Writer

    I dunno. This was of interest to me. I’m neither here nor there on strawberry shortcake, but I’m a big fan of writing which subtly draws parallels between two apparently disparate things – in this case, strawberry shortcake and religion/worship. Nicely done, IMO.

  6. Glen Benison

    Well done, Sally. I have a sweet picture in my mind of your father’s appearance on Sunday mornings……without the cream smudges.

  7. Bieke Stengos

    The dad is a character. You capture the love between him and the mom. A kind of self involved love. All of that topped with strawberries and cream. Yum.

  8. Suzanne Burchell

    you have captured the bliss of a disappearing time of olden days of the strawberry social and church. I value a true just-feel-good story in these not so feel good times of the millennium — my church where I had many such times is up for sale this summer. Thank you for bringing back such a sweet time in the character of the Father.

  9. Lyanne

    Sometimes small things make larger memories. For the author, the day stands out for pulling her back to her childhood, to the relationships within her family and to her observations of her parents and siblings sharing a simple pleasure. As a reader, it’s of interest because I was taken there too. Nicely done….

  10. Claudia Ferguson

    This is a wonderful tale of a happy family and delicious shortcake. What could be better? It made me smile.

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