I am in year 10 at St Joseph’s College Mildura.
I catch the bus to Deakin Ave every morning where I alight at 8am and it’s a ten-minute walk to the school gate, which is behind the Mildura Catholic Church.
It’s where I did my holy communion, confirmation and confessed my sins to the priest crying into palms gripped with prayer and the penance of 10 Hail Mary’s and 20 Our Father’s– the marathon to redemption for sins of ingratitude.
On this particular morning I am sitting in the fourth seat from the front on the right window side, looking down at the cinnamon sponge cake, that would not fit into my bag, and to stop it from getting squashed. It is neatly wrapped in preparation for the end of year class party.
I’m upset because I did not want a cinnamon cake- it’s so boring. Who is going to eat it? I wanted a cake with cream and strawberries, something a little fancier, that was going to make an impact. Alas no strawberries and no cream.
Dad has not taken us to the shops for ages and Mum is not allowed to drive because Dad won’t let her, so we have to rely on him to take us. So, mum made a cinnamon cake and wrapped it for me in one of the plastic bags she washes and hangs out on the hills hoist to dry out. I was so angry with her for not making a better cake and here I am going to school again feeling down because of a stupid cake.
It’s school holidays again and instead of being allowed to go out and have fun with my friends I will be spending them working. I am so oppressed.
My period is not too far off.
I remember when I was in primary school, maybe grade four, I noticed all the other Mum’s were so pretty and I asked my mother; “Why don’t you look like all the other Mum’s. You know they are really beautiful because they wear makeup, paint their nails and wear clothes they buy from the shops.” Mum didn’t wear makeup and she would not let us wear makeup either- she did let us play with her bridesmaid’s gowns and pretty dresses until they had been torn to shreds from all the pretence.
She pricked up her ears, noticing the importance of lessons and with a stern voice pinned me to attention – she replied
“My dear, I am beautiful, I am more beautiful than you will ever know.”
I did not really understand at the time what it means to be beautiful, I just compared her to make up and polish- as if the external layer was enough to illustrate perfection and like this cake plain, unaltered.
It will probably end up in the bin.
My friend Zita gets on the bus, and I forget about the cake as we revel in Duran Duran and compare Simon Le Bon to Brendan Reid and the heart throbs we lust after.
I place the cake on the table in preparation for the lunch time feast and in awe, I swallow the saliva in my empty mouth and take in the sight of these treats as if I am tasting them: salt and vinegar chips, polly-waffles, mint slice biscuits, shortbreads and smarties- stuff we never have at home because it’s too expensive.
The cinnamon cake sits in it’s plain wrapping of plastic, dull and uninviting.
We get busy making Christmas decorations and cards to take home.
It’s lunch time and we all dive in, ravenous for the permission to eat junk food.
The cinnamon cake is missing.
I ask Mrs Ransome: “What happened to my cake?”
She said that the teachers had already eaten it for their morning tea because it looked like the most delicious item in the selection of contributions.
Now I’m jealous because I did not even get to taste it!
Mrs Ransome hands me an empty plate and says, “Please thank your mother for us.”
Once I arrive home- dishevelled from the days end of year’s lethargy, the muggy climate of lack of oxygen on the bus, I’m flushed with a slight headache. I show the empty plate to mum: “I did not even get a crumb of your cake!” I say, “The teachers ate it all!”
She laughs and says, “See I told you, mine was the best then?”
I nod my head: “The most delicious and beautiful cake, just like you.”