We live in different time warps. Continue reading
Gone is the time when I looked forward to a young man arriving at the doorstep for a date. Now, I’m anxious for the arrival of a 7-year-old boy and hours of Uno and giggles.
Sure enough, 90 minutes into my grandson’s visit, the score is Madre 540, genius boy 35.
The winner is the one with the lowest score.
This kid is killing me, particularly as he rubs his hands before each new game and says gleefully, “The cards just love me, Madre,” with a shrug and a wink. Continue reading
Believe it or not, these two disparate comments belong together.
Flattered to be invited to attend and speak at the Word Shark Writing Conference organized by Karen Sanderson, editor, writer and blogger, I accepted after realizing I could combine the trip with a visit to my mom, who lives just a half hour away.
A few days before the conference, I worked on my presentation while also baking my mother’s favorite chocolate chip butterscotch oatmeal bars. My mom doesn’t have a big sweet tooth, but for some reason she absolutely loves my bars.
At 5:30 a.m. on the day of my long train ride to Delaware, I grabbed the special bars from the freezer, where I had stored them. Seven hours later I gratefully unloaded my bag with the special treats, basking in my mom’s gratefulness.
But as I pulled the bars out of their freezer bag onto one of her antique flowery dainty china plates, I gasped. Continue reading
Even bake a cake. A cake from a 100-year-old recipe.
At least, that’s what I grumbled lo those many years ago when I began to date the man I now call my guy.
We met in September. He lived in one state, I lived in another, so we dated by commute. But by the end of November, he asked to stay for a weekend in mid-December. I said yes, and in the next breath he said, “Oh, and by the way, it’s my birthday.”
I skipped only one beat and said, “I’ll take you out for dinner.”
He skipped no beats when replying, “Um, what I’d really like is my grandmother’s birthday cake.”
Turns out, since my guy was a little boy, his mom made him a cake from a recipe his grandmother discovered long ago in an old magazine. My guy loved that cake, and wondered if I’d like to bake it for his birthday.
The day before he arrived for his weekend visit, I followed the directions to the last teaspoon, creaming the butter and sugar while “working in” the milk and sifted flour (back in the grandmother’s days, the cook had to sift her own flour). I beat the egg whites and made a meringue and folded it into the cake, per instructions. As easy as ….cake.
Granted, as soon as I took it out of the oven it flattened half its size, but still, I figured that’s how cakes looked in the olden days.
I frosted and set it before my dimpled date on his birthday, and with bated breath waited for him to take a bite.
He bit, and he chewed, and chewed and chewed, before he finally swallowed. Twice.
Averting my eyes, he said, “Delicious.”
I took a bite. The cake was as hard as a rock and tasted like stone.
Despite my failure, we married within a year, and on his next birthday, I tried again.
With the same results.
On our third anniversary, I had a new oven in a different state with a state-of-the-art mixer.
But the same results.
A week before our fourth anniversary, I called my guy’s mom and admitted my dilemma.
“I follow the old recipe exactly, each time, and each time, it’s a bust!” I moaned.
A small effervescent bubble popped between the phone lines. A few seconds after the pop I realized the noise was my mother-in-law’s chuckle.
I didn’t find it as funny as she did, but you can be damn sure that I ran to the store and bought that cake mix, and the night before his birthday, in secret, baked the best Ski Cake my guy had ever tasted.
He said so.
And every December, he enjoys my home-baked, best simplest hardest birthday cake in the world.
No matter our age.
I find that comforting.
This past week I flew across country to visit my mom. I have adult children now. I have grandchildren, but my mom waits on me as if I’m still her (young) child whom she must care for and nurture.
You know how tenderly we parents watch over our 3-year- old, our 11-year-old, our 16 and 20-year-old? Well, guess what? We do the same when they’re 29, and 45, and yes, even older.
“I bought a wheat bagel for your breakfast, just what you like,” my mom chirps at 8 a.m. our first morning. I don’t eat bagels. I munch on wheat toast with organic peanut butter and blueberry jam every morning, but I so appreciate the thought that I slice the (just thawed) bagel and search for the toaster.
“I don’t own a toaster,” Mom explains five minutes into my opening and closing cabinets.
“Oh.” I turn on the oven to Broil.
“I’ve never used Broil. Do you think it works?” Mom asks, her voice tinged with wonder and curiosity.
I never use Broil either, at least not for toasting bread, so we stand in front of the oven and wait for four minutes.
I open the door. Bagel’s still soft.
Mom rinses some blueberries and raspberries, throws a few on her cereal, and makes me a bowl. “Sit down and eat,” she demands. “I’ll watch the bagel.”
I ignore her and open the oven – bagel’s still soft.
She pours milk into her bowl and I order her: “Eat before your cereal gets mushy!” She ignores me, and we check the oven.
Bagel’s still soft.
Simultaneously, we hit the Broil button off, and then I select Bake at 450 degrees. “Really, Mom, start breakfast. I’ll be right there.”
Mom stares longingly at her now soggy shredded wheat waiting for her on the dining room table but says, “Let me get the peanut butter out for your bagel,” as if I can’t reach up to the cabinet and pull out the Jiffy jar.
I check the bagel – it’s actually getting a little toasted. Nonchalantly I ask, “Do you have some jam?” but inwardly kick myself as soon as the words are out of my mouth.
Crestfallen, she opens the refrigerator and responds, “How about Seville Orange Marmalade?”
“Um, no, I really don’t like marmalade.”
“How can you NOT like marmalade? Here, try it.”
I hate marmalade. Don’t know why, but I have since I was a kid. So like a kid, I shake my head no. I probably pout too.
Mom pulls out another jar. “Oh, here’s Apricot Preserves.”
“I really don’t…”
A spoon with some apricot preserves is suddenly swung in front of me, so I place a smidgen on my bagel and take one bite, making a face. “Nope, don’t like it. I’m fine with just peanut butter. Now, let’s eat.”
Her head is still in the refrigerator. “Aha! Red Current Jelly! Want to try that?”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
I walk to the table with my plate of, by now, cold toasted bagel. “Mom – come on.”
She makes a noise and produces another glass bottle from the refrigerator. “Look! Fig Butter. That could taste good…?”
“Why the heck do you have fig butter?”
She shrugs. “I bought it for a recipe. Umm, that could have been quite a while ago.”
I give her a peanut buttery smile. “Join me.” Her cereal is now indistinguishable from overcooked oatmeal that is dotted with some red and blue berries.
Giving up, my mom sits down at her place, only to pop up with an excited exclamation. She races back to the refrigerator and presents me with her find:
“CHERRY PIE JELLY!”
I groan, “Noooooooooooooo.”
I begin to laugh so hard I can’t take another bite of baked bagel.
How wonderful is it to have a mom who still treats you like her special little girl, the daughter she still wants to keep happy?
But still, I don’t touch the cherry pie jelly.