People often ask me how I got into baking. This is as simple and complex a question as “what’s your favorite dessert?”. It’s dark chocolate mousse by the way. Chocolate mousse should be it’s own food group and if it were socially acceptable, I would bathe in it! My life, to this point, has been a map of uphill, hair pin turns. These turns have seemed random, but recently hindsight has begun to shift into insight. I find it astonishing how a little bit of perspective can drastically change the landscape of your map.
My mother is often the answer to the many questions in my life; “what do I substitute for buttermilk?”, “why is the baby’s poop that color?”, “is heartbreak supposed to feel like my soul is being ripped out?” “do these earrings match my outfit?”, “why are teenage girls so cruel?”
I have had many mothers both biological, marital and those of honorary title through the years. Linda, who chose me at the age of 3 when she wed my father in her early twenties, has been the constant figure of maternal guidance in my world. She is turning 60 this week. My brother has organized a book of letters from 60 friends and relatives expressing their gratitude for her in their lives. He felt that the pandemic should not get in the way of those in our lives being given the opportunity to connect and express their love. Isn’t that what all of this is about in the end? “This is a fantastic idea!” I said enthusiastically, through text and with heart emojis for emphasis. And then I began to contemplate the task I had before me.
How do you write a letter to one of the most important people in your life and find the correct sentiment to thank them for being one of the most important people in your life? This is not a cliché question, truly the words have fallen short. Long showers, hours staring at the bedroom ceiling, one sided conversations with my dog Oscar, none have brought me any closer to the words. The struggle has not been for a lack of feeling, quite the opposite. During COVID, we have lost connections and had to learn entirely new ways of interacting with those we love and the outside world. I love Zoom, but I am literally the most awkward human in the digital world. Did you know that there are thousands upon thousands of videos about how to do your makeup for Zoom? What? I needed to find these a year ago! I am always on mute when I try to talk in a meeting and my face inevitably freezes in a ever more ridiculous expression when the Wi-Fi goes down. I have not seen my mom in person in nearly two years. She is in Florida and what I could say in a long hug and am trying instead to clumsily write here.
My world has made another hairpin turn, a turn that has landed me on a completely new map. I chose joy. Start a business, write a blog, parent with intention and joy….and terror…..and joy again, wrapped up together in the hope for a chance to live my best life. I ran toward the joy as hard and as fast as I possibly could when I realized I was headed for a destination that would close me off from the passions and ideals SHE instilled in me at every crossroads. Be a good person, be accountable, be kind, make connections, plant trees, care for your siblings, bake. Her voice is the one in my head driving me forward. She has spent the better part of her life raising three children and I know she has struggled with the question of who she is outside of her role as mother. If we are being truthful, in this blog post that neither explains how to bake a recipe or tinker a DIY project, but instead explains why we bake and tinker in the first place. Hers is the voice I hear during hard conversations with my teenager and when I think of both the type of mom I want to be and and the sort of man I want to raise.
Linda is the sort of mom that learns how to play dungeons and dragons so that she can zoom with her adult children and play a game each week. It should be noted hear that, I too, am attempting to learn how to play dungeons and dragons. My awkwardness truly knows no bounds! My mom however, dominates every single week! We should all be so lucky to know a woman like her. Through her I have gained siblings, grandparents, summers on farms, speeding tickets on Kansas back roads, love, accountability to myself and the woman I want to be. She has been with me during my hardest moments (even when I didn’t text for months and she thought I was plotting world domination). She is a woman, THE woman, who has changed my life more than she will ever know. She taught me to tinker and bake, she teaches me still. She is my mother and when she is gone, the world will be a darker place for it.
Thank you. I thank you for more than these meager words can express.