I ate a piece of chocolate cake made by a 90-year-old lady who baked the 6-tier wedding cake for Elvis and Priscilla Presley.
No kidding. A few weeks ago, several friends and I were hanging out on a lazy Saturday morning, and the subject of grandparents came up. And one of my friends says, “I haven’t visited my grandpa and his wife in a while.”
“How far away do they live?” I asked.
“About an hour.”
“Oh, you should definitely go.” Pause. “I’d go with you.”
Pause. “Would you?” My friend brightened up a bit. “Yeah, you should meet Ruby. She’s a great cook — she baked Elvis’s wedding cake.”
Excuse me, what? And why haven’t you told me before now that the lady who baked Elvis’s wedding cake lives an hour from here, and she’s married to your grandfather? But I guess these things don’t always come up in normal conversation.
So, we called up Grandpa and Ruby and drove out to their house for a nice Saturday afternoon visit.
Ruby happened to have made a chocolate cake earlier in the day. Maybe it’s because we called to let her know we were coming. Or maybe she just loves baking cakes that much that there’s always one around. Either way, Elvis was right to have hired her as his wedding cake baker.
Ruby is a talker, and she’s got 90 years worth of experiences to talk about. I didn’t think it would be polite to pull out my notebook and take notes, but man, I wish I had. Or even better, wish I had brought along my voice recorder. Another day.
The best part of the afternoon was that it came during my social media fast. Any other time, I would have sat there on the couch, crumbs from Ruby’s chocolate cake still on the plate in my hands, one ear half listening to her fascinating stories of working as a chef in Las Vegas hotels, the other half of my brain composing a Facebook status to be posted 30 seconds after I got home and got on the computer.
Instead, I knew I wouldn’t be posting on Facebook any time soon, so what would be the point in silently composing a status? Rather than obsessing over the cleverest way to write a line that would gain me the most “likes” or comments of “no way! that’s so cool!” — I was able to be in the moment. To enjoy hearing Ruby’s story. And to think in bigger writerly ways than just a throw-away Facebook status. I could enjoy Ruby, and I could pay attention to her intonation, to how she would say things like, “Oh Janie, now this will stop your clock” before she launched into another story. To how she lowered her voice to say sweet things about Grandpa when he stepped out of the room. I walked away from the afternoon having enjoyed the day for what it was, not for the opportunity to get a one sentence post out of the experience.
That’s the reason I stayed off social media for a couple of weeks — to see if I could retrain my mind to think in the bigger picture, to get out of the habit of thinking in 140 character blurbs that are designed to draw attention. I don’t think Facebook and Twitter are bad, but I don’t want to lose my ability to think and write and express ideas that can’t be reduced to one sentence, ideas that will last beyond the next 48 hours worth of newsfeed.
And really, if you’re going to eat cake baked by Elvis’s favorite baker, it’s much better to blog about it than post a Facebook status.