Sharing a Bowl of Happiness

Sharing a Bowl of Happiness

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Sharing a Bowl of Happiness

My mother’s mixer is sturdy and heavy. As I carry it into her kitchen from the pantry where it stays hidden in a closet, I marvel that the frail woman she has become can carry it at all. After placing it on the tiny counter between the sink and the stove, I find I have no room for the flour, chocolate chips and eggs. Efficiency has replaced spaciousness in her retirement cottage. So, for lack of a better solution, I put my cache of ingredients in the sink until I need them and search for a spatula.

Looking into the next room, I see my mother sitting at the table with her head pillowed in her arms. For these past ten years, severe asthma has taken its toll and movement is often a chore, taxing breathing already choked with congestion. She sighs and closes her eyes, spent from a night of coughing. Also, although cooking has never been her passion, I know it pains her to see me puttering in her kitchen, and she is hurting for the days when she could mother me with tasty treats. So am I.

Turning back to the mixer, I lift the towel that serves as the mixer’s barrier against the dust of idleness. A nostalgic smell wafts up from the ceramic bowl nestled in the mixer’s turntable. It must be the fragrance of my childhood.

Memories come to me of watching my mother use mixer magic to turn ordinary eggs into white mountains for topping tangy lemon pies and plain, bitter baking chocolate into syrupy sweetness for cream-filled éclairs. The whir of the beaters under my mother’s direction folded sifted flour mixed with a cup of this and a pinch of that into thick batters that became tall, white angel food cakes, round buttery cushions for pineapple upside-down delights, sugar cookies topped with colored sprinkles, and moist bars oozing with melted chocolate chips.

On summer mornings before the Texas heat built up and the fans worked to move the last of the cool night’s air around the kitchen, my mother often did her baking. I remember one special morning, sitting just outside the kitchen listening for the thud of her wooden spoon scraping the last of the beater-whipped batter onto cookie sheets for baking and the clang of the released beaters falling into the bowl. The silence that followed meant that it was time for licking.

If my mother was generous, thick streaks of batter lined the sides of the bowl and the beaters were heavy with whatever she was mixing. That morning, after entering the kitchen and peeking around her apron-tied waist, I saw small mounds of leftover chocolate chip dough that made my mouth water and my mother licking the spoon with guilty pleasure. Fearful of losing even the tiniest nibble of this unprecedented treasure, I tugged at my mother’s apron, demanding her attention. “Ah,” she said, looking down at me. “Don’t worry. I’ve left some just for you. Would you like to lick them clean?”

Laughing at the greed that filled my eyes, she slid out a chair for me. And there we sat, side by side, me with my tongue curled around a dough-covered beater, and she with a wooden spoon and a smile stained in chocolate. Such a simple pleasure and yet such a bowl of shared happiness.

As I stand in my mother’s kitchen looking at her lined face resting on her arms, I wish for that long ago day that is earmarked in my memory. I wish to be sticky with chocolate, smothered by the protection of my mother’s love, and jealously guarded against the ravages of disease and pain. But only in our memories are we allowed a way back.

So I retrieve the recipe I found for a chocolate chip cake and begin to create a gift that I hope will bring a smile to my mother’s face. Flour and eggs, pudding and oil, a pinch of this and a dash of that. A lot of chips to make round dollops of soft melting chocolate. Then the beaters whir, mixing waves of chocolate that roll inside the ceramic bowl. Taking my mother’s spoon, I scrape the batter into the pan for baking and listen to the thud of the wooden spoon against the sides. Something makes me stop, and I look into the next room to see my mother staring at me with the touch of a smile on her face.

In the sudden silence, I see a different way back. Leaving an unprecedented amount of batter in the bowl, I loosen the beaters, letting them clang against the sides. And picking up the bowl, I turn to a mother still beautiful to me, and say, “I’ve left some just for you. Would you like to lick them clean?”

We sit side by side at the table, bent over a bowl of batter and two laden beaters, both of us with sticky fingers and smiles rimmed in chocolate. It is a bowl of happiness that I greedily share once again with my mother.

Kris Hamm Ross

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