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While doing some decluttering, I came across several cookbooks I'd acquired along the way. I thumbed through them to see if I could find or remember which recipe enticed me to keep the book. I never did find such a recipe, but some of the cookbook covers were quite interesting. Maybe that's what captured my curiosity. I laughed, "Don't judge a book by its cover."
Although I hadn't made one for years, looking through the pages stirred a strong urge within me to bake a cake. More specifically, a chocolate cake - from scratch. None of the recipes in the books were appealing to me. I remembered Mom having an excellent recipe for chocolate cake. I looked through my cookbook but couldn't find it. Instead, I drifted off reminiscing good times in the kitchen cooking with Mom. My laptop chimed with a new message, snapping me back to the moment.
The message was from Sonja Larsen, a longtime, dear friend of Mom's – the text was almost supernatural, considering what I was doing when it came in.
While I was decluttering, Sonja was going through "stuff." While I was going through books looking for something Mom gave me, Sonja found a book Mom gave her over forty years ago. She wrote, "I would like you to have it. I think it gives a special glimpse into her heart and why she would have bought that book for me." I immediately replied with my address. Perhaps the book would have the recipe I was trying to find. I would have to wait and see, but I needed to find that recipe for now.
I was trying to decide if I should keep or toss the cookbooks, I looked at the covers. I started thinking about the book I'm working on; how important is the front cover? I mean, the stories inside will be the same no matter what cover I use. I had an idea how to find out – using chocolate cake. I would work my project over ten or twelve days to keep from overloading the house with more cake than we could possibly eat.
I would bake a square cake, a layered cake, and cupcakes using the same recipe. Each was dark chocolate, with dark chocolate frosting. (metaphorically, the same story with three different covers) I posted photos of the three together on several social media sites, asking readers which they preferred. Nearly 300 people responded and I was surprised by the results.
The layered cake was the number one choice with more votes than all others combined. The number two choice was "all of them." In a distant third place were cupcakes, while the square cake was the least favorite. A lot of people said anything chocolate was good. One lady replied, "I would eat dirt if it had chocolate frosting." The research was fun; I gained weight doing it and learned the book cover is essential.
On the day I was making the layered cake a large envelope from Sonja arrived in the mail. I put the round cake pans in the oven, then sat down to open the package.
Inside was a thin, hardback book. The cover was beige with a grey tweed stipe down the left side, wrapping around to the back. In the beige field, tall plants sprang up from the grass; some looked like dill, other like young ferns – which I absolutely love. The book's title blended in with the blades of grass: To Those Who See-- The title alone reminded me of Mom in the way she shared wisdom.
I thumbed through the book, starting in the middle. The pages were various colors and textures to compliment the beautiful artwork. Some were on thick paper, and some were thin as parchment. Some of the page edges were cut smooth while other pages had tattered, worn edges, creating a comfortable feel, or mood, for the book. The soothing words caused me to meditate, allowing my mind to drift off to places – all good. I was at ease, content – at peace. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to read the book, front to back.
On the fourth page, I found the author; words and block prints by Gwen Frostic. Before I finished the book, I decided the second page was my favorite.
On the second page was a blue jay with his wings spread, gliding through the air. It also had a diagonal, hand-written inscription from my mother: December 6, 1979. Dear Sonja – Happy St. Nicholas Day ~ We have another nice memory with dear friends. Love Bev.
Just below was a second hand-written note: October 31, 2020. Dear Tom, I pass this on with all the memories I shared with your Mom. This book gives us a glimpse into her heart and why she would have bought it for me. Love Sonja.
Together, the two short notes told a story of their own. It was a tale of friendship, love, and caring. It spoke of laughter and tears shared. Most importantly, it was a story of memories between best friends. A story that lasted a lifetime and beyond. The story will continue as one day, I, too, will write in the book and pass it along to my daughter.
It's easy to fall prey to judging a book by its cover. Although the cover is essential, and tells a lot, I found the real beauty; the whole story, on the second page.