Traditional Southern Pound Cake

As is the balance of life, times are not always easy or fair. My mother laid in a hospital bed in a coma. A 17 hour brain surgery had left her brain swollen, putting pressure on her brain stem. They didn’t expect her to live through the early morning hours. Even if she were to survive, they didn’t know how much brain activity she would have. Obviously, it would be hard to ever be prepared for this news, but I was a youngster in my last semester of college.

I was getting a sobering dose of reality and an initiation into adulthood overnight. The doctor was a nice man. I could tell in his eyes that it was hard for him to watch me struggle. He just kept telling me that the tumor was much larger and harder than expected. What he didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter how much he explained it to me, it wouldn’t make sense to me. I had to deal with this news in my own way, just like I couldn’t make my mother wake up through worry, a doctor couldn’t unbreak my heart with an explanation.

That is the physics of life and some rules you just can’t bend. It is during these periods of time when all the breath has been knocked out of you, that you find out who you are and what you are made of. It is also when you find out who you can lean on.

That morning I called my cousin and left a message on her recorder. Getting ready for work, she heard my voice trembling on the recorder and ran to pick it up. Hastily she said, “What’s wrong?” She knew my mother was having her surgery. “It’s bad…” That was all I could get out before I started sobbing uncontrollably. She started asking me over and over, “Do you need me there? I want to be there. All you have to tell me is that you want me there.” That night she hopped on a plane in New England and flew home to sit with me in the silent limbo of a critical care waiting room. Because as I was starting to understand, it isn’t the holding on that is painful, it is the prospect of letting go that hurts the most.

My mother made it through the surgery, but as is traditional in the southern part of the U.S., you show up at the door of a grieving family’s home with food in hand. Most likely, a pound cake or three will show up.

Traditional Southern Pound Cake

Pound Cake
Pound Cake

1 stick butter

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup sour cream

1 ½ cups flour

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together; add sour cream. Sift flour and baking soda and salt together. Add to creamed mixture, alternating with eggs, one at a time, beating after each. Add vanilla. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for an hour and 10 minutes. Serves 8 – 10.


14 thoughts on “Traditional Southern Pound Cake

  1. Your post moved me to tears. I don’t think we’re ever ready to deal with these kinds of situations where our parents are concerned. Although I haven’t lost a parent, we came very close to losing my dad to a very fatal and rare cancer a few years ago. I can identify with the pain, uncertainty, worry, etc. ((HUGS))

    1. Thanks. I am glad to hear that your dad survived cancer. Must have been nerve racking. By the time my mother found out she was sick, it was very quick to this surgery. It was a bit too far gone so we had very little time to prepare for it. It was a very uncertain time in my life that definitely changed me at a young age. I am very empathetic to anyone dealing with those crisis mode health moments, it really is the pits.

  2. What a wonderful cousin you have …!!! Really nice story – waiting to be able to read more about your mum and how she did after surgery. Over here we don’t bring anything to the grieving family. I think we did 100 years ago. Today the grieving families and relatives has to pay mega bucks for – catering after the funeral. Ireland they bring food too.

    1. I really do have a great cousin. Down in the southern part of the US, the funeral process lasts at least a week, sometimes two. It is a very long process and every night someone brings in food to the grieving family. If someone passes within a few months of a holiday, normally someone will provide food for the family during that holiday too. It is a nice gesture.

      1. Fantastic … gesture! In Ireland they have a party for 3 days … to celebrate that they had the privilege to know the resided – witch I think is brilliant thing. Lot of dancing and drinking, but that is the Irish for you. This with bringing food I seen on films, as you say from the South – wonderful thing.

  3. I agree that your story moved me to tears. The prospect of losing my mother makes my breath catch in my throat. You have a beautiful flow to your writing. I loved that you talked about the southern tradition of bringing food to the grieving family’s home. I was born in Mississippi and some of my most vivid childhood memories are of sitting at the table looking at all the interesting foods people had brought over after my granny died.

  4. I lost my dad very suddenly when I was just about the same age. We had food from one end of the house to the next, and because my mom was widowed with 4 minor children at home (I’m the oldest and was the only one to be grown up and moved out), the food just KEPT ON coming. And just when you thought it was gone, someone would bring more. It’s true that the people you call in a crisis are the ones you can really count on.

    Gorgeous pound cake, by the way. I know that we must have had 30 pounds of pound cake back then. I’m so glad your mom came out of that; life has been very tricky without my dad, and I don’t know how far I would have gotten without my mom.

    1. I have lost my Dad too. It was a few years after this and it was a very sudden death too! Gosh we have such a similar past…. The food is a very nice gesture but at the time I didnt want to eat. My stomach hurt constantly and I was sooo thin then. My life has been hard without my Dad because he was my confidant. I trusted that he wouldnt judge me no matter what and I have reeled since losing that security, that person that would keep my stupid little secrets.

      1. I think I was in “go” mode. I’m the oldest kid and I already had my two little ones and my momma was a mess, and there was so much that needed to be done. I just kept going and doing.

        The parallel pasts are kinda interesting though. I think so anyway. It’s been a good surprise :)

  5. I’m glad you didn’t lose your mother. At any age it is hard. I was 33 when mother died. Even though I was a mother of 3 I don’t think I became an adult until I buried my mom. Btw the pound cake is just the way my grandmother made it and the way I make it.

    1. Yes, pound cake needs to have that slight sour flavor that buttermilk or sour cream provides. I am also glad I didnt lose my mom. It would be a strange dynamic to be this young without parents.

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