(A Fictional Valentine from me to you)
Ella Mae Dupree was seventy-three years old. Her round face bore the wrinkles of many a day beneath the sun as a farm wife`s face would. She wore round glasses upon her round face, and her hair was always drawn up into a round bun, the auburn tresses of her youth now vibrant glowing silver. Everyday Ella Mae would pull a sensible cotton dress on, today`s was red with small white flowers, her once slim build now tending to be more rounded than it had when she and Everett were sparking.
Ella Mae Dupree had been widowed for close to twenty years. In all that time since her husband of fifty-two years had passed she had never thought of ever witnessing love again, but she had. Oh yes she had! This morning, she took extra time with her hair and the pins that helped hold the bun in place. Today Mister Bee, her old black and white cat, got his breakfast a wee bit early. Today she made sure her support hose were not sagging around her ankles.
Ella Mae Dupree moved about her kitchen with purpose this morning. She had a special cake to bake for a special man. Today was a special day. It was February 14th, Valentine` s Day. After sipping at her coffee and finishing her toast and two firmly fried eggs she pattered out to the living room to peek through her curtains.
Ella Mae Dupree said to her cat, “Not yet,” as Mister Bee napped in the bright winter sun that fell across the back of her sofa. Mister Bee wriggled a black ear, yawned and then tucked his black nose back under his black tail to resume his nap. She made a mental note to come back to the front parlor and check through her curtains every thirty minutes.
Ella Mae Dupree did NOT want to miss the arrival she had been so looking forward to. Into her large kitchen she went and pulled her favorite apron from the hooks beside the mud room door. The round woman began to gather her ingredients. Eggs, flour, sugar, spices, shortening-all that was required to bake a cake from scratch she settled on the top of her long kitchen table. She turned her round face to peek at the clock then began to stir her batter.
Ella Mae Dupree stirred and stirred, the wooden spoon whipping the ingredients thoroughly in the blue mixing bowl she had bought at that yard sale. She raised her round face to peek at the clock on the wall. Then she poured the snowy white batter into two thin, well greased cake pans. She checked the fire in the old stove and decided all was well. Using her yellow and white gingham apron she opened the door and slipped the pans into the oven, then set the timer. Then she pattered back out to peek through her parlor curtains once more.
Ella Mae Dupree said to her cat, “Not yet,” as Mister Bee napped on. The tip of his black tail flickered in response. The round woman with the round glasses sat down for a spell to rest her feet as the oven baked her creation to golden perfection. Coming up slowly when the timer rang out she pattered back into the cheery kitchen to remove the twin cakes with care. Settling them to two round racks to cool, she then set into making the icing for this special treat.
Ella Mae Dupree whipped and stirred and added and drizzled until the icing of purest white suited her. She lifted her round face to peek at the round clock. Her back reminded her of her age then and so while the cakes cooled a trifle more she rested her feet again. During this foot break she sipped at more coffee and paged through the latest magazine that had come in the post. Her hand came up to check her bun as she looked at the pictures on the glossy page.
Ella Mae Dupree then looked at the round clock. Her blue eyes grew round when she saw the time. Coming to her feet she pushed her kitchen chair in and laid a tender, wrinkled hand to the top of a round cake. They were cool enough she was glad to find. Now she took one cake and tapped it gently from the pan. It fell free with ease. Her hands cradled the soft round cake as if it was a babe, and then ever so carefully she laid in on her best round platter. Now the fun part would begin! With a touch that came with years of baking she began to apply the icing to the bottom half of the cake. Granted her hands shook now, more so than when she had baked for Everett, but they got the job done. Repeating the process with the second cake was trickier but she managed it.
Ella Mae Dupree lifted her round face, now speckled with flour and white icing, to peek at the round clock. Noting the time she hurried the best her old, aching hands would allow. The rich, smooth icing flowed onto the tiered cake. Using a carrot peeler she then began to shave small strips of dark, rich chocolate from two thick bars she had bought last time she had been to town. This part took longest but she enjoyed the artistic part of the decorating, always had. When she had the chocolate shaving complete she straightened and her back cracked like a green oak log in a fire. She pattered back out to her parlor and peeked through the curtains.
Ella Mae Dupree said, “Not yet,” to Mister Bee. The old tom cracked a gold eye open then rolled to his black back in the glorious February sun. She figured she may as well clean up her mess and so pattered back into the kitchen to wash her cookware. She stopped beside the hutch to admire her work, rubbing at the knuckles of her right hand with her left. It was one of her best she is pleased to admit before she pattered over to place the high glass cover over the work of baked beauty gingerly. The twin sinks are filled close to over-flowing when she begins. The hot water felt good on her swollen joints. Soon the drainer was heaped up like that leaning tower she and Everett had always talked about seeing. Four boys had come along and they had never gotten to see that tower, but that was okay she thinks.
Ella Mae Dupree turned with as much speed as a woman her age has when her front door opened and the small set of bells her daughter-in-law had given her for Christmas three years past rang out. She took a good long breath and dried her hands on her apron. She felt as giddy as a school girl and her excitement lit up her time weathered face as she turned around to look upon her guests.
Ella Mae Dupree heard, “Look who`s here Grandma!” Her grandson smiled as he entered her kitchen, his wife at his side. Lord but he looked just like Everett she thought as the strapping man walked over to her and handed her the small bundle all swaddled in a soft blue afghan. The same one she had made for her now grown grandson she saw. “Laura insisted we bring him here first before we went home,” he stated.
Ella Mae Dupree brought the babe closer, her eyes were full of them cataracts now, and she gazed down upon the round red face of her newest great-grandson. A tear formed in the corner of her eye as she peered down at the sleeping lad held to her round breast. She lifted her round damp eyes and peeked at her grandson through her round spectacles then looked at his wife.
Ella Mae Dupree then said, “I spent the last four years watching you two courting across the road. Looks to me like I should have been paying closer attention to what you two were doing on that front swing,” she teased. Her grandson gasped, “Grandma!” His wife laughed softly.” Man, I guess we better buy you some thicker curtains,” the man added with red cheeks.
“No need. I seen love growing through those old curtains just like my mother did when your grandpa lived there. Seeing love grow, well that`s something I never thought to ever see again. So you just leave them curtains be so that you can watch this here boy find love someday. Right Everett?” Ella Mae Dupree asked of the babe with the round face.
Happy Valentine`s Day