I’ve always considered angel food cake to be kind of an “elderly” dessert. Something grandparents crave or that is served at the VFW Bingo Night. Never something I wanted or even considered as a legitimate dessert option. They were always lauded for their airy-ness, low-sugar content, and lack of fat. (Especially the ones at the grocery store in those clear plastic containers.) Umm…hello? This is dessert. I want rich. I want sugary. I want fatty. Thankyouverymuch.
My lack of desire for what I deemed to be a senior sweet is surprising considering my taste in every other area of my life. My house looks like that of anyone’s great aunt (I do love me a good floral pattern and light pink color scheme), I prefer vintage items to new, and I drive a Buick the size of a small yacht. I love old people tropes, relish in them.
It wasn’t until I dusted off my own two-piece tube pan (given to me by my grandmother years and years ago, getting carried from house to house on the off chance I’d suddenly be struck with the urge to make a dessert I had no interest in), that I realized what I’d been missing out on for nearly two decades of my life. Yes, it was light. Yes, it was delicately sweet. Yes, it was delicious! Especially when paired with fresh whipped cream and macerated berries (or even some jam!)
Two weeks ago I broke one of my favorite coffee mugs. It was vintage, stoneware, and had “Home, Sweet Home” written on it in a glorious script. It slipped out of my hands while doing the dishes and the handle broke right off. It’s still lying in the sink drain – I can’t bring myself to throw away the last piece of it.
I don’t know why we form attachments to material objects like that. But it’s happened to me time and time again (my china cabinet full of Pyrex and coffee cup collection can speak to this). I’ll come across something and feel tethered to it, wanting it in my world – to make it fuller, brighter.
It happened earlier this week with a cake stand. Seth and I were in a local furniture store, perusing the floors for items to fill his new home. Then, in the corner, I saw it, made a beeline straight for it, grabbing it hungrily. I held it in my hands, felt the smooth glass, the weight of it. It was unique, beautiful. I wanted it. Desperately.
But it was too much. More than I wanted to spend on a cake stand, a prop for photos, another dust collector. I put it down and we continued up the next two flights of stairs – testing couches, mattresses, chairs. Three floors up, we sat on a couch together, the steel colored fabric matching the overcast sky outside. The large windows behind us let in more than enough light despite the clouds, the constant drizzle quietly tapping against the panes. We dissected the couch, its pros and cons, compared it to others we’d sat on, imagined his home, someday our home. My head rested on his shoulder, my mind drifted to the ground floor, back to the display.
We readied to leave, heading back down the stairs. I wandered back over to the shelf holding the cake stand. I picked it up again, made a mental note to come back for it some other day, and put it back.
“We can do 30% off,” the saleswoman said.
“No, no, that’s ok.” I said.
“She’ll take it,” Seth said.
“What? No!” I protested.
“We’ll take it,” he insisted, reaching for his wallet.
I couldn’t believe it. I never expected him to do this, let him know he didn’t have to, it wasn’t expected of him.
“I can. I want to. I’m going to.”
He smiled down at me, paying the saleswoman. She gently wrapped up the cake stand between layers of tissue paper and bubble wrap. I took it gingerly – my cheeks aching from smiling so big, my eyes bouncing between the bag in my hands and the man by my side.
Outside, Seth opened my door, (something else I have told him he doesn’t have to do, but am grateful whenever he does.) and I looked up at him, stood on my tiptoes and kissed him. Despite the rain and the gray day, I felt bright, light. In awe of my gift, and the cake stand he’d just bought me. The heft of the bag, still in my hands, was the only thing keeping my feet on the ground.
He knew it was thanks for more than just opening my door that time.
We had just finished eating dinner and my mom walked toward the kitchen making a comment about how “it’d be nice to have a little help cleaning up” as she wandered away, continuing to mutter.
“Mom,” I called. “If you want me to clean up, just ask! I can’t give you what you want if you don’t tell me what it is. Being passive aggressive isn’t going to help anything!” (Home for the holidays, amirite?)
She huffed. “Fine. Will you please do the dishes? I’m tired from cooking.”
Yes, I could do the dishes. Yes, I would do the dishes. And while doing them I thought about how I had found myself in my mom’s position a multitude of times. Wanting help, guidance, acknowledgement, but being unable or unwilling to ask for it.
So that’s where I had gotten it. From my mom. In addition to a multitude of positives – my sweet tooth, my determination, my penchant for sweatpants – I had gotten my tendency toward passive aggression from my mother.
Because she’s only human. As am I.
So, for the last two years I’ve made a conscious effort to be more straightforward, more upfront, ask for what I want. And so has my mom. No more muttering about dishes, no more wishing for people to read minds. It’s made a marked difference to both of us, I believe.
When it’s important, it’s easier to ask for things. Like my mom did years ago when she asked for the recipe to these O’Henry bars from the women in her hospital’s cafeteria. And like she did weeks ago when she made it very clear what she wanted for Mother’s Day. A shovel. Yes, I could get her one. Yes, I would get her one. Yes, I did get her one. All she had to do was ask.
We could all use a little comfort right now, yes? With the cold and the snow and the anticipation of the year ahead of us – unknown, unfamiliar.
We could all use a little something known, something familiar.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt if it’s also something sweet.
Chocolate chip cookies are one of my all time favorite treats. They’re easy to put together and even easier to enjoy. Well-known, well-loved. By virtually everyone. Browned butter as the base adds a little more richness and a dash of cinnamon brings some much needed warmth at this time of year (or really any).
I’ve often been told I’m a very understanding person. While I can’t say that is true of every person or every situation, I certainly try to be. I try to see both sides, all angles, give the benefit of the doubt (sometimes to my own detriment).
I think this can be (at least partly) attributed to my being the middle child. I have quite literally been stuck in the middle for majority of my life. It’s hard not to see both sides when you’re in between them.
But I wasn’t always the middle child. Oh no, for the first 5 years, 8 months, and 29 days of my life I was the baby.
And then one cold December day in 1997 that all changed. My baby sister arrived. A belated Christmas gift, an early celebration of the New Year.
And I. Was. Pissed.
Seriously. There are photos to prove it. Ones lovingly taken by my mom and stepdad, wishing to capture the moment our family grew, full of more people, more love. And I was having none of it. Nose red from crying, eyes still watery, I’m pouting beside the bassinet in nearly every picture. I sat there, stone faced, refusing to smile at this little bundle of joy that was clearly just around to usurp my title as the baby of the family, and with it all the benefits that being the baby offered.
And boy did she benefit. In truth, we all did. Once my irritation waned and I accepted my new position as the middle child, it was noticeable that all of our lives had greatly improved. Because of her. I’m grateful for her arrival, her presence, for making me who I am, for who she is.
My younger sister is intelligent, effervescent, and as strong-willed as they come. She has a loving and generous heart, capable of caring for anyone who crosses her path. Her work ethic is a rare find in most employed adults, and practically non-existent in kids her own age. She is funny, adventurous, and thoughtful. She’s the baby.