My mother was the youngest of 14 kids, two of whom died as infants. There are a full two decades between Mom and her eldest sibling. Despite the age difference, Mom was close to all of her brothers and sisters. I have always found that remarkable and something to be modeled.
While two of Mom’s siblings died as infants, the remainder lived to be adults. Her brother Karl, however, was only 35 when he died. He survived World War II only to be felled by a bleeding ulcer.
Two things about Karl’s death have always interested me. First, he died in April of 1947; Mom and Dad were married in January of 1948. At their wedding nine months after Karl passed away, Mom didn’t wear a traditional wedding gown because she was still officially in mourning over the passing of her brother Karl. I think in today’s world she would have worn a traditional gown. And, by the way, I have never known what color Mom’s dress was since the photo is in black and white. I wish I had asked her that question. (Kids, ask your parents questions now.) Jen thinks it was aqua. I hope it was.
Second, Karl married his wife Kathryn in 1938 at the age of 25. I assume he spent a couple of years at least serving overseas in the military. I know he served in the Army in World War II, and so I think he would have been overseas for some number of years. He came home to Kathryn, they had two children, and then he died in 1947.
His wife, my Aunt Kathryn, was 34 years old when her husband died. She lived until 1999. Here’s the thing – she never remarried. She was only married nine years, and probably some of those nine years were spent apart, and yet she remained single the rest of her life.
I, of course, never asked her why. I can tell you this much…I remember her as an absolutely lovely woman, tall and slender with the tiniest waist imaginable. Though I’m sure my memory is flawed, I recall her ALWAYS wearing a shirtwaist dress that showed off her tiny waist. Her hair was perfect, in a French twist or some other sort of upswept do.
So, it’s always interested me that this beautiful woman remained a widow for some 52 years. I wonder why. Maybe that’s just what women of her generation did. Or maybe she just was so busy being a single mother of two that she didn’t have time or energy to find a new husband. I know she was a working mother, holding down a job for many years at a local savings and loan.
Or, in a more romantic scenario, maybe she so loved her husband that no one could ever replace him. (Or maybe I read too many romantic novels.)
When my parents still lived in Columbus, Mom laid flowers on Karl’s grave every Memorial Day, right after leaving flowers at the gravesite of her parents.
One of Karl’s kids worked for my Dad at the bakery (a large number of Mom and Dad’s nieces and nephews worked for them at various times). Chuck was our delivery man, if my memory serves me. He was one of an illustrious group of my cousins – all around Mom and Dad’s age (remember Mom was the youngest of 14) – with whom they socialized. I believe two or three beers were consumed in each other’s company.
I learned during our recent trip back to Columbus that Chuck is now a deacon in the Catholic Church. Who would have guessed?
But here’s something Chuck never knew (and if I’m lucky, will never find out). I babysat on several occasions for their children. I was probably 12. One night, the baby pooped her diaper. I didn’t want to change a dirty diaper, because, well, I was 12. So I simply didn’t. Poor kid. That’s what you get when you only pay 35 cents an hour. My second cousin probably has toilet issues to this day.
My Aunt Kathryn would bring a chocolate cake as her offering to our family reunions. It was only after asking for the recipe recently that I learned the cake uses lard. I was so horrified to learn that fact that I Googled “chocolate cake with lard” and was surprised to see many recipes pop up. I further learned that lard no longer has the reputation of being an instant killer, at least by chefs in the know. In fact, some maintain that lard, in its purest form, is healthier than vegetable shortening. The problem, of course, is that to get lard that isn’t hydrogenized and bearing preservatives is nearly impossible. Still, the result is a light and fluffy texture that shortening can’t offer.
And let me just add that my week of desserts has been one of the best weeks in Bill’s chocolate-loving life.
1 c. lard
2 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. sour milk (add a t. vinegar to milk to sour)
1/2 c. cocoa
2 t. baking soda
2 1/2 c. sifted flour
1/2 t. salt
1 c. boiling water
1 t. vanilla
Cream lard and sugar. Add eggs and milk. Beat well.
Sift cocoa, flour, soda and salt three times. Add to the first mixture a little at a time. Add boiling water and beat well. Add vanilla.
Pour into a 9 X 13 in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
Nana’s Notes: I’m guessing on the size of the pan. Her recipe doesn’t give me a clue. I cut the recipe in half and baked it in a 9 X 13 in. pan, thinking that her original recipe made a half sheet cake. I should have used a 9 X 9. So I baked it for half the time, cut the cake in half and made it a layer cake.
In all honesty, I didn’t like the cake as much as other chocolate cake recipes I have made. I am extraordinarily susceptible to the power of suggestion, and I just couldn’t get past the fact that it was LARD. Not for health reasons, mind you, but because lard is animal fat. I don’t know. It just bugged me. Bill thought the cake was good, and his only criticism was that it didn’t have chocolate frosting!