Puddin’ Tane and Pumpkin Pie Cake: An ode to my Great Aunt Pud
Baking a birthday cake for this rabble rouser of an ancestor, who 'had enough husbands for pallbearers and lovers for the choir.'
My Aunt Pud would have turned 107 the other day.
I only know this because I’ve started putting my ancestors’ birthdays on my Google calendar, so each year, I get a little reminder of the day of their birth.
Aunt Pud was one of my favorite elders. She was part of the Golden Girls, a cackling cacophony of matriarchs I knew a child when we were all living in Florida. My dad was working for his mom at a craft company outside Orlando, and these then-septuagenarians all lived together in a pink house with a pool in Deltona.
I made some of my first memories with these blue-haired betties, who lived together after their last husbands died, riding motorcycles, playing chess, some of them smoking an endless chain of cigarettes and, yes, watching “The Golden Girls.”
Their punchy personalities became more complicated as I grew older and started to piece together their personal histories. Two of them in particular — my great-grandmother Joyce and my Aunt Pud — seemed to have had particularly difficult lives.
They were both born during the 1910s and then spent the post-Depression and World War II years cavorting around, running bars in Kansas and Galveston and allegedly overseeing a brothel at one point. (Imagine being a child in the 1990s asking, “What’s a brothel?”)