My daughter Christie is making me a Mary Bryan cake for my birthday today.
In the spring of 1961 our family took a car trip to Florida. We stopped in North Carolina to visit one of my dad's Army Air Force buddies. Mr. Hurst had a daughter, Mary Bryan (the blonde on the tractor) who baked for us a double-fudge chocolate cake. She gave the recipe to our mom and from then on for every birthday, holiday or family gathering Mom baked what we all called a Mary Bryan cake, but I'm told others know as Texas sheet cake. I like our name better.
When we were visiting Mom in the hospital last month for her 99th birthday my sisters and I started reminiscing about the Mary Bryan cake (it's featured in most of the birthday photos my dad took). We contacted my sister Carol in Arizona and she sent us the recipe, which she had rescued when we cleaned out Mom's house.
So today when Christie asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, I told her about the Mary Bryan cake and gave her the recipe. I'm sure it will be delicious.
A few years ago, just after my dad died, my mom made her last Mary Bryan cake (we were moving her to Assisted Living). I asked her what happened to Mary Bryan and she told me that Mary Bryan had died in a car accident several years ago.
She had had a hard life, Mom said. Bad luck with men. Drug problems. An earlier automobile accident she never really recovered from. I'm not sure of all the details and now it's too late to check with mom to make sure my memory is correct.
I guess it doesn't really matter. For all of us, Mary Bryan will always be that sweet little girl on the tractor.
A couple years ago I wrote a story inspired by Mary Bryan cake that was published in the Foundling Review. Here is the link to that story (it's only 500 words):
Mary Bryan Cake