The Leftover Messy Bits of Walnut Cake

Walnut Cake

I wasn’t popular in school. Far from it. Being picked on wasn’t my problem…mostly…and plenty of people always showed for birthday parties. My place quietly fell somewhere between the two extremes in a kind of anonymous world. Shyness didn’t help, being a bookworm wasn’t a plus, needing to be completely independent and unique without ever being the center of attention left me the solitary being I did and did not want to be. Not even the food I brought to class parties — whether the vegetable tray I asked my mom to make or the chocolate chip cookies my mom made in later years — was popular. After all the bags of chips and box brownies were gone my contribution would still sit on the school room’s wood laminate table.

So for 11 years I sought solace in the friendly world of ballet.

Except I wasn’t popular there either. So far from it. Neither talented nor tiny enough. I was too far below to be noticed by those above me. Those around me let me follow or…kids can be cruel. I so desperately wanted to be accepted by them all. Somehow I was. This was the world I belonged in for more than 11 years. Maybe because there were never any leftover bits in ballet. We ate everything.

The homemade chocolate chip cookies. The raw carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomato vegetable platters. The pizza we ambushed the delivery driver for. The bagels slathered in cream cheese. Whole pints of Blue Bell ice cream. During the summer intensive lunches and the after show parties we ate everything.

As you grow up being popular fades away. Maybe you worry about being successful and keep your work life separate. It’s not personal. Who doesn’t like me isn’t anywhere near so important as the people who are there in my life. That includes the friends I danced with all those years ago.

Now, don’t go thinking that all the growing up years were nothing but bad memories. By the time I graduated high school it was practically enjoyable — for the single newspaper class I attended each day. Even so, it’s been over a decade since I spoke to anyone from that time. I expected the same thing to happen with ballet. Only it never did.

In the most random of ways I run into people from those years all the time. On purpose recently. For the saddest of reasons. It was a visit full of old memories — of good and bad — and of becoming friends again. In part it was an odd group to gather; kind of like if it was the year 2025 and the classes of 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2015 all went to the same 10-year reunion. In testament to everyone who was a part of that studio we all belonged.

Our potluck brunch ended in a table full of leftovers. A large segment of this homemade walnut cake included. Not because it wasn’t wanted or any reason along that story. Kind of in the way that the morning after a party I sort of love waking up and seeing the napkins left on the table or the wine glass that got tucked behind a couch avoiding getting washed so that all the memories come back this table of leftover messy bits — the last piece of walnut cake that came home — seemed like all the memories of all our lifetimes.

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