Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)
TITLE: Christmas Coffee Cake
By Genie Thoni
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Ingredients not for just one coffee cake, but for eight: one for each of our family’s households that had evolved over the years and….one for Mother, with no pecans, please.
But not this year. Mother had died suddenly in October, just as the oak trees she loved in front of her assisted living facility were beginning to flame orange. Ever since she had given up the cozy yellow kitchen in her home of over fifty years, I had taken over the customary baking of the Christmas coffee cake. It was our special ritual: I would make her a small coffee cake of her own, (without pecans of course), deliver it while it was still warm, and sit by her wheelchair as she tasted the first piece, waiting for her to pass judgment.
And she was no easy critic. One year she declared I had been “chintzy” on the cherries, another year I had used too much butter cream glaze. Then, there were years when she closed her weary eyes, nodded approvingly and said it tasted just like hers.
But there would be no nod this year. I sighed as I added flour, brown sugar and butter to the cart. It had only been a few weeks since I had found myself sitting in the pastor’s office, recounting what I thought were the highlights of my mother’s life, as we planned her funeral service. I told him about her love of baking and sharing recipes and how she never came to visit her grandchildren without a plate of carrot cookies or a Tupperware container full of apricot fried pies.
“But she never was a physically affectionate sort of mother,” I recalled. “I don’t remember her ever hugging us or giving kisses to my sister or me.”
I waited for the gentle minister to sympathize, but after a few moments of thoughtful silence, he surprised me. “It sounds to me like she expressed her love by cooking for the people she cared about.”
Crystal clarity flooded my mind. Of course. How could I not have seen it? Mother had indeed expressed her love this way, not physically, not even verbally, but with creamy pieces of fudge when there was sadness or with brightly decorated cakes in times of celebration.
As I pushed toward the check out stand, I spotted my young daughter, carefully carrying the dozen eggs I had sent her to retrieve. “Are we done yet?” she asked, placing the Styrofoam container carefully into the cart. “Can we go home and start baking now? Can I crack the eggs by myself?”
I smiled and hugged her tightly; knowing Mother will be nodding her approval as we keep her tradition alive.
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