So I am baking a cake today. Ever since I can remember, I have had an intense affinity for marvelous creations of the sweet sort. Yes, I love to bake. I mean LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, muffins, petit-poits, cupcakes—all things warm, lovely and filled with homemade goodness.
I’ve often been asked why exactly it is that I have such an extreme and fond affection for rockin’ out the oven. I never really knew the reason(s) myself until my college years. My freshman year (talk about a year filled with transition and emotional turmoil/ growth!), I got a job working in a small, little bakery. My baking and barista days at Magnolia remain my absolute favorite employment to this day. It was more than a paycheck to me. This job opened my eyes…and I began to see that my job * although deceptive to the common eye * was not merely being a menial baker working for 7 dollars an hour. No, instead I realized that I was a counselor, an artist, a designer, a caregiver, a comforter, a nurturer, a lover—and a HEALER. At this tiny bakery, in that small hidden corner of Southern Virginia, we did not sell pastries or sweets by the dozen—we served each customer love—“wrapped individually”—and “made to order”.
I witnessed every day, the simple miracle that was communion…the literal breaking of bread. By simply offering tangible baked goods…we supplied the catalyst that fostered community, that nourished physical bodies, and that fed hungry souls.
I am a visual thinker, so I’d love to paint a picture of what I mean. Welcome to Lynchburg, Virginia, ponopeople…you are now invited to the wonderful world of Magnolia’s.
Although we made an entire batch of muffins at 6am like clockwork every morning…you better believe that EACH customer that came in knew deep within their being that the baker REALLY secretly got up extra early in the morning just for THEM specifically to enjoy that fresh out of the oven offering…because, you know, “I DO come in every morning at the same exact time…and she knows just what I like”. * Yes, ME* J
And yes, I DO remember just what they like(d):
Johnny, the 56-year old retired architect, who rode around on his antique bike, knew that his cranberry orange muffin would be waiting for him at 6am sharp. Scowling as he would grab the sack, he would wait until he got outside and around the corner to take his first bite; a schoolboy grin of such satiety and joy spreading across his worry-wrinkled face *yeah, we saw you Johnny J *
Nona, the kind, soft-voiced woman, who was confined 99% of the days to her home and wheelchair, knew that her sweet tea and homemade “soup of the day” would be warm and ready for her when the hired transport brought her on their one outing of the day. When asked what type of soup she would like (there were always two)…the answer was always the same: With a widespread smile across her withered skin, she would lean close and whisper with childlike glee and anticipation: “Surprise me, dear…you’ve yet to disappoint!”
Linnette, the rotund single woman who was constantly on the latest fad diet (we knew because she heralded her “new plan for the new her” to us daily), would come in on her way home from work (she was a schoolteacher who truly loved her kids). She would shyly make her way up to the counter and order a “lil’ somethin’ sweet”. Because “she really shouldn’t.” This interchange always ended in Linnette being given a generous portion of her favorite treat of the day—handed to her with such care by familiar smiling faces--who really knew that what Linnette REALLY wanted * and maybe even “needed” that day * was a “BIG HONKIN’ SLAB of somethin’ sweet”….so we served Linnette her “sliver” and looked forward to her coming again.
These are just a few of the amazing patrons that I came to know and love during my time here. So many more come to mind, but I must be brief. Basically, I have learned that whatever it may be: An aging man’s momentary escape into childlike glee and joyful appreciation; A shut-ins brief vacation from her imprisonment—and the fellowship that follows; or a hurting woman’s outcry for grace and self-acceptance….we were able to supply---by, yes, simply baking~
Yes, I am baking a cake today. I long and ache to bake a cake today…because I want to serve someone today—and not just a slice of cake~