When our German neighbors arrived, we knew they would be here for two years, and that seemed like a long time. We live at a marine lab that bustles in the summer time, but after summer’s bright days fade into fall, it gets pretty quiet around here.
Having another family close by to share our deserted summer camp made things cozier. Seeing another set of windows throw light out at the darkness at 4:00 pm on a winter afternoon always lifted my spirits. Having another mama to talk with while our kids played at the small playground here saved my sanity on more than one occasion.
We traded salt and sugar and eggs with regularity. We traded big slices of cake as well. This is not something I say lightly: Anja taught herself to bake while she lived here, and I threw together many a cake trial that needed testing. We ate more than our share of cake.
When our German neighbors finally had to return to Germany, I wasn’t ready for them to leave. I’m still not used to the dark, empty cottage next door. At their goodbye party, it only seemed right to bring a cake since we’d traded so many slices back and forth during their two years here.
I baked an “American-style” chocolate cake, which Anja said she would miss in Germany. When it came to decorating the cake, I knew exactly what to do.
I covered it with blue fondant and fashioned three Orca whales for the top — one large, one medium, and one small. My daughter Eliza knew right away what was going on, “It’s Thomas, Anja, and Lea!” she cried before asking me for the leftover fondant.
Like the whales that always come back to the San Juans, we await our neighbors’ return. And when they arrive, we’ll eat more cake.