In 1963, the Easy-Bake Oven was introduced to millions of future little bakers around the world. And I was one of them. Excited, didn’t quite come close to that tickled-pink moment when my mother placed it in front of me, all so beautifully wrapped in a box and bow, and it wasn’t even my birthday!
I had no grand illusions what this strange, miniature, avocado green replica complete with Betty Crocker cake mixes, would produce. Any five-year old could figure that one out in seconds. But that didn’t bother me because I saw this as an opportunity to flex my tiny fragile wings of creativity and fly.
It was also there in the kitchen baking side-by-side with my mother that a bond soon began to cement and the blossoming of an awareness, one surrounding her and all those many wonderful things she would, in time, come to do for me.
Things, of course, I didn’t always appreciate. But took very much to heart until I was ready to understand the message. And this was in spite of the fact she stemmed from a long line of Jewish women who brought with them this instinctual sense of needling guilt they felt compelled to pass along before they died, like salmon swimming upstream. I looked beyond it. Well beyond it I suppose, because I knew, also instinctually, that there would come a day in the future when I would look into the mirror and it would be her face staring back — not mine.
In my sixty-three years on this planet, I’ve often thought about the complexity of mother-daughter relationships. How the stories behind them are not always so simple, rather hard and even heartbreaking. Tangled in a love that transcends, that connects a moral compass pointing home. Always pointing home. Even for me. Yes, growing up I wore that “badass daughter” badge like nobody’s business. And that she remained vigilant to see me through those times, told me I needed to start paying attention. I needed to listen and I needed to learn.
I think it comes down to this: As much as I’d love to keep Hallmark and 1–800 Flowers in business, I can’t set aside just one day out of the entire year to honor my mother. Nor can I possibly squeeze into a twenty-four hour time frame a list of all those incredible sacrifices, those things she’s taught me about life, about being the kind of woman, the kind of mother I needed to be, the meaning of unconditional love, that marriage is hard work, (unfortunately neglecting to mention in the interim some weren’t worth the effort), how to have grace in the face of death, not to slouch, make sure I take care of my skin earlier than later, and that friends are those people who stick around long after the sh*t hits the fan … because that would be impossible.
Many years ago, I experienced something uniquely my own: the presence of mindfulness. In other words, I had this “aha” moment.
This formative realization while sitting at my sister’s deathbed, that:
And I knew if I didn’t show my mother how I felt about her and NOW in the simple and ordinary ways: a phone call, a kind and patient word, a visit and an “I love you,” I’d regret it for the rest of my life. Hard to believe in the middle of all that crippling tragedy I had a wake-up call.
But if not then … when?
I’m lucky that my mother is still with me. And while the tables are now turned and it’s me showing her a thing or two in the kitchen — I’m okay with that. More than okay.
You know, we all have our heroes. They come to us in the most outrageous packages and happenstances. Mine just so happened to come in the form of a cute, eighty-nine-year-old lady named Mom.
L. Donsky-Levine is the author of The Bad Girl. She is currently living in South Florida with her family and when the moment avails itself, she can be found at her laptop, writing. So she says. And if not, she’s more than likely lost somewhere on the Internet tinkering on her blog, FB or Twitter.