My daughter Nina was barely a month old the first and only time she and my maternal grandmother met. My “Nannie” had cancer and her mind was not as sharp as it had once been. Yet as we sat on the couch in her house (my mom on one side of me, Nina in my lap, and Nannie on my other side) she asked to hold Nina. I knew then that would be a forever moment. The kind of moment that may seem small at the time but carries profound sentiment each time I recall it from memory.
Nina knows she met Nannie because she sees the picture I have of that moment — on the couch four generations from 1 month to 93 — together. She sees “baby Nina” with Mommy and Nana and she asks who the other lady is and I tell her that’s my Nannie — her great grandmother — who loved her very much in that moment they met.
I have many wonderful memories of my Nannie and one of them centers on an Easter tradition. Easter was one of the holidays that my parents, my twin brother, and I would spend with my maternal grandparents. My Nannie and Grampie. We had to get dressed up in Easter clothes (dresses, suits, hats), we often went to church, we were given Easter baskets filled with jelly beans and other goodies.
Among my fondest Easter memories is of the lamb-shaped cake my grandmother baked for dessert at Easter dinner. My Nannie was a wonderful baker and there were often baked delights at their house. Things that we wouldn’t get at home, treats. That was part of the charm and fun of going to visit my grandparents.
The lamb cake wasn’t a fancy or complicated Cake Boss or Pinterest concoction. It was baked with love. It was the subject of great delight for me and my brother. Baked in a special lamb-shaped pan, chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, sugar flaked coconut to cover the lamb in “fur,” jelly bean eyes and a bed of Easter grass. Often I would help Nannie bake and decorate the lamb cake and cooking with her was special time together. I don’t remember what we talked about. I know there was love. She would set the cake out out carefully before dinner and we waited, for the lamb.
As a young child I didn’t entirely understand or necessarily appreciate the significance of the lamb and Easter — a sign of new life, hope, and promise. The religious story and context is not what holds the profound power in the memory and tradition but as I raise my own daughter I find the lamb has great significance — new life, love, family. The passing down of traditions, rituals, and shared experience.
This year my mom, Nina, and I will bake a lamb-cake and Nina is delighted. We will tell her stories of her Nannie and how she used to bake the lamb cake. We will bake and decorate and carefully set the lamb out before dinner. Lamb-shaped pan, chocolate cake, vanilla frosting, coconut fur, jelly bean eyes, on a bed of Easter grass. Baked with love. Delight. We will carry on my Nannie’s Easter tradition in our own way. Another forever moment.
To make your own lamb shaped cake you can purchase a Wilton pan which includes a cake recipe and directions for baking. Decorate to your heart’s content and share with family and friends. Wilton also makes ducks, bunnies and other wonderful shapes with which you can start your own Easter tradition.