Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ronnie's Apple Cake

"Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown." (Marcie, from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

My kids think of it as a long weekend away from school. A lot of people look at it as the start of the Christmas shopping season. For me, it is a special time to reflect on the many things I am thankful for. One special thing I am thankful for this year is Ronnie's Apple Cake and all that it allows me to remember. You see, Ronnie's Apple Cake is more than just a dessert...it is a door that leads to a time in my life that holds many wonderful memories. Memories of my family, when we were all there...together as one. It was a special time in my life.

Ronnie's Apple Cake was not always known as Ronnie's Apple Cake. Originally, it was just known as the delicious apple cake that mom baked. I am not sure how many pieces of that cake I ate from the time I was a youngster until I reached the age of 21, but it was a lot. We all loved it, but Ronnie, my brother, man he loved it more than any of us, and he let it be known that it was his favorite dessert. That was fine by me. I didn't mind who asked her to bake it, as long as she did. Only later did it matter which child asked her to bake it the most. You see, that apple cake was the very last thing Ronnie would ever eat of my mom's cooking and baking as he sat down at the kitchen table on the afternoon of May 6, 1981. At 5:30 a.m. the following morning, we found him dead of a car accident just five-tenths of a mile from home. No long after Ronnie's death, mom announced that she could no longer bare to bake another apple cake again and that was the end of it. We understood. Never again would anyone ask her to bake that apple cake and that was the end of it.

"Isn't it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away" (Lucy, from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.)
President Dwight David Eisenhower once said, "There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were." Things have never really gotten back to the way they were for us following Ronnie's death in 1981, but one day recently - 29 years, 5 months and 3 days later to be exact - one very nice memory came back. It was Sunday, and after Church my son, J.D., and I drove to mom's house for lunch. I wasn't expecting to see mom's apple cake sitting there on the food bar, but there it was. Naturally, as soon as I saw it a ton of memories came flooding back as I recalled that time in my life when things were the way they used to be. I never expected things to remain the same after Ronnie's death, but who would expect that after such a tragedy? I am not really sure as to when exactly it happened, but somehow, over the years, I managed to put that part of my life in its special place in my mind, as I struggled to go on with my life.

Standing there, staring down at the apple cake I said, "Wow, you baked that apple cake!" Mom had forgotten about it, because she said she had found the recipe but did not know why she had not baked it. I reminded her it was Ronnie's favorite dessert and that after his death, she had said she could no longer bake it. She just said "Yeah," and that was it. It was nice to sit there and enjoy something I once thought to be the best thing I had ever tasted. 29 years, 5 months and 3 days. That is how long it had been since I had eaten that cake. The best part was that I was able to remember something my brother had loved so much during his short life. That day, I renamed mom's apple cake, Ronnie's Apple Cake.

As I write this, Thanksgiving Day is almost here. As Governor William Bradford of the Pilgrim Colony once said, it is a time to render Thanksgiving to the Almighty God for all His blessings. This year, as we always do, my family will gather together to enjoy one another in food and fellowship, and I look forward to it. I have witnessed many Thanksgiving Day's in my life and I have many blessings to be thankful for, including Ronnie's Apple Cake and all that it now means to me.

For those of you who are curious as to why my brother loved that apple cake so much, here is the recipe. I hope you will enjoy it as much as he did.

Ronnie's Apple Cake

3 cups diced apples
1 1/2 cups of oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs well beaten
3 cups self-rising flour
1 tp cinnamon
1 tp vanilla
1 cup raisins or nuts (mix well)
optional -1 cup powdered sugar
and 1/2 cup of milk for a glaze

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour

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