“You mean I actually passed something on?”

The force of those words hit me like a mack truck.

I was standing in the kitchen wearing an apron and wielding a very sticky wooden spoon. It had a black streak at its tip commemorating the time I left it sitting on the stove top remembering it just seconds before it would have burst into flames. Briar was at the butcher block, gay little floury hand prints peppering her pant legs. We were baking. It was Sean’s birthday and he had instructed me not to buy anything. I think perhaps a dozen eggs might have been ok, but I was sticking to the plan. Besides that I had both girls and a ton on my plate and not so much in my wallet.

“Let’s make daddy a cake.”

This pitiful, last minute attempt to not let Sean’s day go by unnoticed was met with squeals of delight from Briar.

“Briar’s cookin’ wis’a mama for to make daddy a cake of his birthday.”

“You bet, honey.”

I took down a cookbook and some mixing bowls. The bowls were a gift from my mom back when we lived in Boston. I love them. I love bowls. Period. I get that from her. I can remember having a favorite bowl growing up. Not a doll, not a toy. A bowl.

“Can we use the best bowl, mom?”

“You bet, honey.”

It was a mixing bowl she was given for her wedding, made up of greys and browns, white inside and dotted with dark brown. The sides had ridges that I would run my hands along, one hand always coming to rest on the spout it had for pouring out the batter.

Looking in the fridge I saw that we only had one egg. Ugh. I gave Briar some shredded cheese and asked her to mix it up with the cheese spoon (a whisk) while I scanned the cookbook. No dice. All the cakes seemed to call for more than one egg, you silly, hapless woman. My mind ran back to so many times in my childhood when we didn’t have what the recipe, directions or costume called for. We (she) always made it happen. I knew I could do this.

“Ok, Briar. Mama is going to use some of Avery’s food, maybe some bananas and pear, and we’re going to make a special cake. Our own way.”

“We makin’ it a kind of our own way special cake of daddy’s birthday.”

“That’s right,a kind of our own way special cake.”

After a kitchen cabinet and back of the fridge mambo, we arrived at a beautiful bowl filled with what looked like cake consistency batter.

“Shall we put it in the pan?”

“Yes, we shall be puttin’ it in to the pan of the cake.”

I reached for a cake pan. Damn. Cake pan, cake pan. Don’t have a cake pan. A loaf pan? A loaf cake. A loaf of cake. No. Hmm, muffins? No.

“Oh. I know.”

“Oh, I know. I know!”

I smiled at her perfect inflection of me with an idea.

“Let’s use the special rose tin.”

“Oooh, roses. Briar loves roses.”
“Mmm, roses smellin’ beautiful, mama.”

Together we poured the batter into the heavy rosette pan that had been purchased as my mom and sister feverishly cooked baked goods by the pound one holiday season. Later, Briar and I drizzled frosting, made with one squinted eye looking at a recipe and the other spinning in mad, sugar fueled circles as we made daramtic additions of ingredients via tests by the tongue of a toddler.

“Now, what can we use to decorate?”

The table, upon which we set our mostly-from-scratch confections, was adorned with bits of ribbon and miniature this & thats from my drawer of just in case crafts and things. We had created a birthday poster from one of Briar’s mixed media arrtistic triumphs. Behind the display was a Barbie doll house fashioned from a Victoria’s Secret bag, a Huggies Wipes box, and scraps of construction paper stamped with Disney Princesses. It was a birthday smorgasbord of making-spectacular with what we had.

Growing up I didn’t have the cool shoes and my closet didn’t contain Esprit, Guess or Genera. Our kitchen cupboards never contained Nestle Quick, Wonder Bread or any cereal with Frosted or Fun in the name. I didn’t have Barbies and I never had a banana seat bike.

What I did have was a mom who taught me the magic to be found beneath the yellow flowering boughs of the bush on the hill behind our house. I spent countless afternoon within those brilliant limbs of gold, festooning the different branches with bandanas for curtains and making shelves with sticks. I’d hang chipped mugs in the kitchen and lay pieces of old towels upon the floor completing my backyard getaway.

She showed me wonderlands where faeries danced beneath magic blankets. We’d walk delicately along the stone retaining wall, breathlessly declaring each discovery of gossamer threads twinkling with dew in the early morning sunlight. Then ever so gently we would touch the emerald moss to feel it still warm from the faeries.

Tucking my girls into bed at night I remember looking up at my own mom, searching her face. I remember the softness of her hands and the way her voice would dance, filling my room and carrying me away on magical flights of fancy. I remember wanting to make it last, wanting to stay a girl forever so that I’d always have her tucking me in. The sleepy blue eyes looking up at me night after night seem to make the same silent wish I did all those many years ago.

That mom I wished I could hold on to forever? Turns out she lives inside of me, she’s an inspiration in a nearly empty cabinet, she’s a fantastical tale on a stormy night. She’s forgiveness when the dishes don’t get done and she’s the laughter when I burn another wooden spoon.

“You mean I actually passed something on?”

You bet you did, mom.