last night at the fall festival; and she just called and asked if you could come share it with her."
"She won a cake?" I asked.
I walked three times the night before, handing over a ticket a walk, fifty cents a ticket. Tinny music played in my ears as I stepped carefully around the circle. Every time they called a number, I checked the paper feet I'd landed on...no luck.
Ms. Jerrell was a retired first grade teacher. She was my mom's first grade teacher, over at the same school where she'd won the cake. Mom said she had no idea Ms. Jerrell's age. Her last year in the classroom had been my mom's first. My mom remembered her fondly.
"She was a good teacher," Mom said.
Now, Ms. Jerrell lived alone at the other end of the street. I had walked past her house hundreds of times. If I saw her in the garden or on the little covered porch, I always called out a friendly hello; but I had never been inside.
I knocked on the door and waited. I'm not sure what I expected...bright colors, picture books, a rocking chair.
I heard Ms. Jerrell fumbling with the lock on the door. When she opened it, I realized she was barely a head taller than I was; and I was only 8-years-old.
"Come in. Come in," she said. She stepped aside and waved me over the threshold.
"Congratulations on your cake," I told her politely. "It's so nice of you to share with me."
"Oh. It's too much cake for one" she said.
She shuffled off to the kitchen. I surveyed Ms. Jerrell's parlor. Dolls and cross-stitched pillows covered every chair cushion. I sat down on the black bench in front of the old Baldwin piano.
"May I play a song, Ms. Jerrell?" I called after her.
"Oh yes. Please play a song for us," she said.
I played a song...maybe one I knew by heart; but more than likely, I fumbled through the wilted sheet music perched above the keys. I'm sure I missed a sharp or two. An audience of China dolls watched, wide-eyed, from the chintz-covered armchair. My dusty fingers itched to pick them up; but I dared not disturb them.
While I plunked around on the loose keys, Ms. Jerrell clinked about in the kitchen.
"Bravo!" She exclaimed, appearing suddenly in the arched doorway, shuffling a bit in her scuffs.
"The cake is ready," she said, smiling broadly.
I followed her through an unused dining room to a round table, wedged in a kitchen corner. I could see a tangle of bare rose bushes through the glass panes in the back door.
Ms. Jerrell sliced through layers of chocolate and, with a shaky hand, served me first. We ate our cake from china dessert plates. Ms. Jerrell forgot to fill my milk glass; but I wouldn't have mentioned it for the world. The cake was moist, anyway; so it didn't matter.
"You must be very lucky, Ms. Jerrell," I said. "This cake is delicious. It must have been the best one to win."
We talked about school; and I'm sure I told her about the maps we were making, using dried beans and rice and yarn. I'm sure we talked about Ramona Quimby and cursive writing.
I ate a whole slice; and seconds when she offered.
When it was time to go, I stood awkwardly under the covered porch.
"Thanks again, Ms. Jerrell," I said. "I had a lovely time." I sounded like a girl from a book, I thought. If Ms. Jerrell noticed, she didn't seem to mind.
"Thank you," she said, "for a lovely visit."
I turned to go. I was the lucky one. Ms. Jerrell had taught hundreds of children over the years; and yet I was the child she chose to celebrate her winning cake. I could still taste the rich, fudgy frosting. I was not sure why I felt so sad as I walked home.
The Slice of Life Writing Challenge has not a been a cakewalk; but without it, I may not have sorted through my memories for this slice about a winning cake. I may not have remembered this story about the teacher who taught my mom to read.
No, this March challenge has not been a cakewalk. Some days, I found myself walking round and round, hoping to be lucky enough to come up with a decent idea. Sometimes, I worried that my slices were too dry or too plain. It has not been a cakewalk; but it has been something worth celebrating. I have loved offering slices to all the readers who have graciously visited Galley Street; and I have loved being invited to share a slice with all the writers whose blogs I've visited.
"Bravo!" I say.
It's so nice of you to share with me.
"Thank you...for a lovely visit."
I was the lucky one.