Of course, over the past two years I think of a myriad of items I’d like to thank her for, but my mom has never been comfortable with conversation that goes beyond “what should we do now?” She didn’t talk about philosophical issues, or the past, and definitely not the future. She pursued fun and the company of others. Spending time sipping coffee and talking about “life” was not on her list of fun.
Which is why I realize now what a treat she gave my brother and me. Every Friday night, our mom baked a cake. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. Angel food cake with one or the other. She tried a gingerbread cake in the fall. She made us each a cake for our birthdays (never store-bought) in March and October.
But the amazing part of her baking prowess was that my mom didn’t like to bake and she certainly didn’t care for desserts.
It wasn’t until I went away to college and returned home that first time, two and a half months later, to the smell of just-baked chocolate chip cookies that I realized two things: my mom missed me, and she had never baked cookies before. In fact, my 18-year-old mind suddenly comprehended that I had never seen my mom eat sweets. She considered sugar as palatable as, say, baking soda or corn starch.
Yet, my brother and I enjoyed a freshly baked two-layer cake once a week.
When I raised my own family, I baked a cake every Friday for 18 years before my two kids left for college. Now, I notice that my daughter bakes a cake for her family of three children several times a month.
My son’s wife has probably never baked a day in her life. (I think he married a woman like his grandmother.) So when I send cookies and brownies to their three young boys in San Francisco, I become the best grandmother in the world.
Thank you, Mom.