Most people will go their entire lives without being summoned to the church fellowship hall by a frantic looking woman who has grabbed the microphone from the pulpit and yelled, “John Self, you are needed immediately in the fellowship hall.”
At the moment of the summons, I was in silent meditation for the bride and groom who soon would be man and wife. No, not really. I was daydreaming, zoned out. I didn’t hear my name. When no one popped up to answer the call, the woman repeated her plea. “John Self, please come to the fellowship hall immediately.” My date elbowed me in the ribs, “Go, go, they need you.”
What could they possibly want with me. I asked as I walked out the center aisle to the stares of the other guests who probably were wondering the same thing?
I found out soon enough. The excited woman who started this met me in the narthex. “We have an emergency. We need you now.” Before I could ask why they would think I could help them, the woman blurted out, “Your father owns a bakery, right? You are that Self, right? There’s been an accident.”
Then I saw it.
An amateur cake decorator had created a multi-tiered wedding cake, but her inexperience showed when she used a solid layer cake as the base, not a ring cake with a heavy duty box in the center to support the weight of the top layers. Her cake wasn’t firm enough to bear the weight of the tier separation pedestals. The florist, putting the finishing touches on the centerpiece, noticed that the cake was listing dangerously to one side. Just as he sounded the alarm, it slipped to the right. He caught the edge of the second tier and was still holding it when I arrived. Had he not been there to catch the second and third tiers, it would have been what we called a slip and splatter. I’m sure you get the point.
“You have to fix this, now,” the bride’s mother ordered. I hardly knew how to tell her that while it was true my father owned a bakery, and while it was also true that I was employed by that bakery during the summer, my cake decorating expertise was limited to washing pots and pans, cleaning the bake shop and delivering cakes.
I had nothing to work with except a spatula, a cup of water, and a cook’s apron from the kitchen. As I rolled up my sleeves, I ordered everyone to leave the room. I had no clue what I was going to do but I sure didn’t want any witnesses. When my date arrived, curious to find out what was going on, I remember the stunned look on her face. “Get the car ready in case we have to make a quick getaway.” That was all I could think to say.
This before there were iPhones, and the nearest land line was in an adjacent office, which was locked, so, calling my father, the master baker, for expert advice was not an option. The only alternative I could see was to remove the tier separators and make it a traditional four-layer wedding cake. Off came the offending separators and the intricate border icing. We lost some nicely done roses made from icing and a lot of nifty border decorations but there was nothing I could do – or knew how to do – even if I had extra icing and decorating tubes. I repositioned the layers on top of one another and using the spatula and water, I smoothed out the gouged frosting. What went from being a lovely cake with intricate decorations was now a minimalist creation. The cake was saved, the mother of bride was happy and the guests did not know the difference.
When I went to the wedding, this is not what I thought I would be doing.
For many of us, where you start off, is not always where you end up.
© 2021 John Gregory Self