He wanted an ice cream cake for his birthday: white cake, with the ice cream strawberry. I whipped eggs for 30 minutes in an attempt to get those peaks, but only managed a firm sort of foam. He snuggled close. All seven years of boy pressed into my arm as I folded the batter between five fingers and a palm. “Is it my cake?” he asked. “Are you making it for me?” Yes.
I don’t know what it was that made me laugh when the cakes came out of the oven; maybe the arrant domesticity of it all. But laugh, I did–me, making cakes–and as the laughter faded I saw the words floating just before my eyes, like a sheer, lazy, hazy banner.
What is it that makes you laugh? I ask the silence. When Solomon watches you, remembers you, imagines you, what is it that makes you unafraid?
Is it that you are prepared?
The magnitude of labor that has gone into any job well done presses into my memory; be it making a cake; making a home; making a life. We each grow into our dreams and into our days, and our dreams and days grow into us, because we work at them, even as we delight. We must work, or nothing will come.
She’s done that, this woman. She has labored heartily, putting her hands to the plow. She was faithful with the small things and now is faithful with much. “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness,” Proverbs says. She’s done well.
Lemon icing runs from knife to bowl to cake to thumb, while the Proverbs Woman smiles in my mind. I think of all the unknowns in life, all the surprises for which we can never entirely prepare. Is that all there is? I ask, wiping at hair and brushing at crumbs. You have prepared and labored excellently, shored up courage and confidence, and this is why you can throw back your head with frank, laughing face? This is why you laugh at the days to come?
No, there’s more, she whispers. I’m twisting lemon rind, squinting in the light. There’s so much more. There’s all that is above and behind and outside and within, all that bolsters and buttresses and washes clean new.