Tag: Motherhood


Fruition

April 15th, 2010 — 6:40pm

Here’s what it looks like, at least in my life, to be a writer: there are tumbleweeds of dog hair blowing down the staircase. The sink is piled with dishes. I missed the UPS man’s arrival because I had to take Celeste to the dentist this morning and then to meet her 8th grade class at a field trip: thirteen-year-olds slouched and vogue-ing for an invisible audience in front of the Exploratorium. But when I got home, the first copies of Cakewalk had just arrived from my publisher, the package ripped open on the butcher block counter that still has crumbs on it from last night’s dinner.

It’s a strange, dislocating sensation, the physical evidence of the work of your imagination; in the case of a memoir like Cakewalk, the work of my memory and my heart. Forgive the obvious metaphor, but it really is a lot like motherhood. It’s as strange as seeing your child cross the street by himself for the first time, or, years later, listening to the grown man’s voice on the phone as your son tells you his plans for staging a production of a Sam Shepard play this spring at Oxford.  You can’t quite believe this came from you.

This time, though, I got help in believing in what’s come from me because of something else that arrived in the mail at the same time as my new book: a birthday card from Zachary. This is what he wrote:

“…I went to a fabric store in Oxford today to buy fabric for one of the plays I’m working on and it reminded me of how you made all my Halloween costumes by hand and how cool it was to have completely original, hand-made costumes, which were extra-good because they were made with mom-love, and I want you to know that every day I have moments like that.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think of how lucky I am to have the best mom in the world, who has given me so much and taught me so much. Every time I cook for my friends, which I do as often as I can, it makes me feel proud to pass on to my friends the recipes and the love of food and cooking that you gave to me, and it makes me feel closer to home. I taught Calder how to make a roast chicken last winter like you taught me, and he has been teaching all his friends, and now they’re all using your roast chicken recipe.

When I read To the Lighthouse, I imagine you reading those same words and reveling in Woolf’s language and wit. I have inherited so many of my pleasures and passions from you, as well as much of what I seek to bring out in my own character. Most of all you have taught me by example to be generous and to take joy in giving pleasure to others. I am so lucky that you’re my mom. In the card you sent me on my birthday, you wrote about all the cakes you’d ever made for me. I can’t do it this year, but someday I’d like to make you a birthday cake! Love, Zachary.”

Consider it already made, my sweetie.

Comments Off | CAKEWALK, Family, holidays, Motherhood, Uncategorized, Writing

Totally Fudged!

March 12th, 2010 — 6:50pm

As my daughter, Celeste, approached her thirteenth birthday this year, she had just one request: tickets to the Broadway musical Spring Awakening. If you aren’t familiar with Spring Awakening and you have even the slightest inclination toward live theatre,  electrifying music, and teenagers in period costume acting out a story of sexual awakening, repression, and grief as riveting and rich as a Russian novel, don’t miss the national tour when it shows up.

Gary and I didn’t need to be convinced: we’d been listening to the Spring Awakening soundtrack with Celeste for months, and the music was such an extraordinarily original combination of throbbing rock and sad, haunting melodies that I wanted to see the show even before I knew the story ended my favorite way: tragically. Ours is a family that loves musicals, but Celeste was born for Broadway. “Oh, this one’s a diva,” my midwife predicted, watching Celeste break out of her swaddling to flail and vogue like Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl just hours after her birth. Already, she was munching up the scenery, and she’s never stopped.

“Someday my prince will come . . .” Celeste warbled into the toilet bowl as a toddler. At three, she was already such an accomplished singer her preschool teachers told us they were sure she had perfect pitch. She’s been singing with the San Francisco Girls Chorus since she was seven, the same year she started being cast in local children’s theater productions. She’s performed twice with the city’s opera and watches Glee with the avidity of a disciple. She wants nothing more than to be a musical theatre star, and she can tell you who was playing in what at the Gershwin Theater in March 1953. Spring Awakening’s unique combination of teenage longing and compulsively croonable score crossed her adolescent radar at just the right moment.

So of course we told her we’d drive from San Francisco to Sacramento to see the show for her birthday. The Broadway run’s original stars weren’t in the national tour cast – Lea Michele, Celeste’s idol, is now starring as the insufferable but breathtakingly talented Rachel on Glee – but the male lead had been taken over by Jake Epstein, who is famous for his role as the bipolar musical prodigy heartthrob on the campy teen soap opera from Canada, Degrassi. Decompressing from chorus rehearsals in front of Degrassi has been one of Celeste’s guilty pleasures for a couple of years, so the news that we would see hunky “Craig” in Spring Awakening – not just see him but see him beat the female lead with a switch and then bed her in a hayloft on stage —  was met by the kind of earsplitting squeal only a twelve-year-old who’s a musical theatre geek with a classically trained voice can attain.

In addition to an emergency trip to Forever 21 to find an outfit sufficiently dazzling but shy of making her look like a teenage prostitute while she waited for autographs at the stage door after the show, Celeste asked me if we could “you know, Mama, make some cookies or brownies or something for the cast?”

Celeste knows me all too well: I like nothing better than any excuse to bake. In fact I wrote a whole book about baking (that’s Cakewalk, A Memoir) as an excuse to bake. But I hesitated at the idea of baking for the Spring Awakening cast. What if they had some paranoid policy against taking food from fans? What if they thought we’d hidden razor blades in the snickerdoodles or stirred some fine Colombian into the brownies? I remembered my mother’s weeping disappointment when she found the Halloween cookies she’d lovingly decorated crumbled at the bottom of our front steps when I was a little girl. I didn’t want anything to mar Celeste’s big Spring Awakening day, and we agreed to go to Sacramento empty handed.

After the show, Gary and I stood at a discreet distance to watch as Celeste stood with the other diehard young fans, awaiting their autographs. Celeste was so euphorically star-struck she could say nothing more than “This is the best day of my life!” as each smiling, generous cast member approached to sign her program – until the gorgeous and talented Jake Epstein stood in front of her.

“You were amazing!” Celeste burbled. “I’m a huge fan of Degrassi, and while I watched Spring Awakening I kept thinking, it’s the Degrassi guy!”

A flicker of disappointment crossed Jake Epstein’s handsome face. His warm smile faltered. And then the fan next to Celeste said, “Well, now when I watch Degrassi, I’ll be thinking, that’s the Spring Awakening guy!”

Okay, think about it: if you had the chance to be known as the slutty, manic depressive hunk on a crappy teen soap opera that specializes in story lines about ninth graders with testicular cancer and STDs, or as the heroic male lead of a high-class Broadway musical that won eight Tony Awards, which would you want to be known for? Jake Epstein turned to the girl next to Celeste and replied, “Now that’s more like it!” and gave her a bear hug along with the autograph.

My daughter sobbed in the back seat of our car all the way home. Mostly she was overwhelmed by her brush with something she felt so passionately about, her world’s colors splashed vividly around her for an afternoon, but she was also mortified at the thought that she’d insulted Jake Epstein. Jake Epstein! I couldn’t get him out of my mind. All that night, after Celeste had gone to bed troubled and deflated despite our reassurances, I trolled the internet. I understood Jake Epstein’s reaction to Celeste’s awkward gushing, but mothers are bulldogs when it comes to letting go of something or someone they think has hurt their child. As if it were a Volkswagen I could superhumanly lift off my baby girl, I wandered cyberspace looking for Jake Epstein’s email address, his agent’s phone number, some contact to let him know my little girl was a serious fan, a real talent in her own right, and she was only a tender thirteen, so easily crushed. The closest I got to the elusive Jake Epstein was some fan site that told me he loves the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and chocolate.

Chocolate? Now I was getting somewhere. It is moments like these that make me glad for my sweet tooth. I conferred with Gary, and the next morning we told Celeste our just-hatched plan: she’d loved Spring Awakening so much, we were buying her another ticket for the next weekend (blowing our budget, but did we care?), and this time she was going to bring homemade fudge for the entire cast. Take that, Jake Epstein. You’ll be putty in my chocolate-covered hands.

Together Celeste and I shopped for ingredients and little decorative boxes, and on the night before the show we cooked up three weighty batches of the chocolate fudge I wrote about in Cakewalk, the fudge I remember my eccentric, parsimonious old coot of a grandfather making when I was a kid. We tied seventeen little boxes with red ribbon, and after her second matinee of Spring Awakening Celeste and her pal Teresa stood at the stage door in their finery, waiting to hand out souvenir fudge to the cast.

“You made us fudge? No way!” “Fudge? YAY!” “Seriously, you made this for us?”

Gabrielle Garza, Chase Davidson, and Taylor Trensch of the "Spring Awakening" cast are totally fudged

One by one the cast members gushed and hugged Celeste and Teresa as they accepted their boxes of fudge. Several of them started sampling immediately, huddling in circles and closing their eyes. Later Ben Fankhauser, cast as the demure Ernst, tweeted about being “totally fudged” by a fan. Sarah Hunt, who plays the abused Martha, called over Taylor Trensch (the tragically geeky Moritz) to ooh and aah over Celeste’s homemade Spring Awakening t-shirt. Steffi D, a Canadian Idol finalist who is the show’s runaway, Ilse, gasped, “Oh my god, it’s like a pound of fudge!”  And Jake Epstein? Jake Epstein stared at Celeste with disbelief when she told him she’d made fudge for the whole cast because of him. “Oh – that is awesome,” he said, carefully pocketing the box before leaning in to embrace her.

Sarah Hunt, Steffi D, Kimiko Glenn, and Krista Pioppi holding fudge

Jake Epstein's post-fudge glow

You too can be totally fudged: here’s the recipe for Faux Pa’s Fudge, one of my family favorites from Cakewalk.

14 comments » | Baking, CAKEWALK, Family, Motherhood

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