In so many ways, I am blessed. I have a great boyfriend, I adore his kids, and my dad and I are closer than we’ve ever been.
Work has been understanding, friends and family have reached out, I’ve got some much-needed respite… and all of these things help me. They all help me heal.
But today is still painful.
Mama always used to call me on my birthday—usually to sing happy birthday, and just to say hello. I managed to save one of her voicemails from an old phone.
But I’ll never get another call from her.
And today, it’s even larger than life, because my sister took the old Kitchen Aid mixer after my mom died. She borrowed it to make pies at Christmas, and I’m pretty sure my dad told her to just keep it.
Thing is… my mom had bought a brand new 5 quart Kitchen Aid Deluxe mixer, complete with her favorite accessory—the glass bowl—and had never once used it.
She actually had my dad get out the old one anytime she needed to use a mixer, because for whatever reason, she didn’t want to use the brand new one.
My dad brought me the new one this week, so I could use it to make some cupcakes for my birthday celebration this weekend.
And I broke it in today.
Every time I bake, I think about my mom… I think about all of the things she taught me in the kitchen—how baking is a science, and measurements are important. You can’t multi-task when baking, you need to stay in the moment so you can be aware of exactly what needs to happen next.
Follow the steps in order, stop the mixer and use the spatula to clear the sides of the bowl, add dry ingredients first on one side, then the other, add eggs one at a time, add wet ingredients slowly, add dry ingredients even more slowly—
All of these tidbits came rushing back to me as I used the red Kitchen Aid for the first time. Then it hit me—the last time I had actually used a Kitchen Aid was back in the house I grew up in, standing on the brown linoleum floor, in the olive drab kitchen with mustard yellow appliances, and the old white Kitchen Aid perched atop the big cutting board, whirring away, and Mama standing next to me, patiently giving me instructions.
I think about her every time I bake. Every time I make fudge, every time I make pie… and I suppose it’s worth noting that up until now, I’ve baked without the use of a mixer. But with my carpel tunnel getting worse, I really need it, so now I am glad to have one.
I just hate the circumstances…
And David tried to help me, too. I’d never made cupcakes from scratch before, and I’d never made ganache (that changes NOW… since I now know just how easy it is), and my stress level kept creeping up and up the scale, and he’s trying to do everything he can to help me, and I’m barking orders at him—just like Mama did to Daddy, year after year, holiday after holiday, baking occasion after baking occasion. She needed him to mix, to hold bowls while she scraped them into another dish, wash dishes, get supplies—basically, she needed him to be her extra pair of hands and her extra set of eyes.
And once I realized I was doing the exact same thing, and that I’d stumbled upon yet another thing that makes me just like my Mama… I lost it.
I realize every day how I am like my mom. How I’m stubborn and proud, how I’m incredibly anal and particular about exactly how I want things done when I’m working in the kitchen, and how I need my David, the way my mom needed her David—to help, and to never stray very far, but to only help in the way I want him to help.
The cupcakes look great.
The ganache is setting up.
David went to the gym.
The dryer is going.
The house is quiet, and I’m left with only my thoughts and my tears.
I have so much to be grateful for, and believe me—I am—but I am also deeply sad in a way that I cannot articulate and no one can truly understand, unless they’ve been through it too.
I get to live.
And I am re-evaluating what exactly that means for me, because nothing reset my priorities faster than losing two of the most important people in my entire life.
So, today, I am 38.
I get to live.
I don’t understand that yet, but I am beginning to truly understand the legacy my family has created.
And that I am part of it.
And that my part is not done.