From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Rainy Day Cake

Sometimes the laughter in mothering is the recognition of the ironies and absurdities. Sometimes, though, it’s just pure, unthinkable delight.

Barbara Schapiro

“Rain! It’s raining!” Shaun shrieks with joy. The sliding door to the back porch reflects a pulsing circle of fog as he presses his face against the rain-swept glass. “Mommy, can we make a Rainy Day Cake?” Shaun begs as he hangs on my sweater.

“Chocolate or vanilla?” I untangle his grasping fingers.

A strong memory from my childhood is the Valentine Cake. I don’t know the origin of this family tradition, but the recollection of made-from-scratch, messy, delicious cakes frosted in red, white and pink and covered haphazardly with nonpareils, sprinkles and red-hot candies is one I cherish to this day. The cakes Shaun and I make to celebrate rainy days are equally unprofessional looking: crumbs swirled into the frosting, fingerprint indentations or long swipes where taste-testing occurs.

Rainy Day Cake is nothing if not a production. Flour swirls through the air; cracked eggs drip down the outside of the bowl. Aprons take on a batter-speckled pattern. Shirt cuffs become encoated as little fingers dip into the bowl for quality-control tasting. The project also challenges my son’s still-evolving belief system.

“Mommy, raindrops are blue so we should use blue sprinkles. But . . . my favorite color is red.” His eyes seek an answer in mine. He chooses red sprinkles. Is the experience of using red sprinkles to represent blue raindrops a small lesson in the concept of abstraction?

Then there is the agonizing exercise in patience as we wait for the cake to cool before we frost it. Even more difficult is the decision whether to leave it whole to share when Dad gets home or have a piece now. Mom’s dilemma is whether to break her diet. Sharing a piece of Rainy Day Cake in fellowship and love far outweighs the actual calorie intake every time.

We sit in the window seat—our “castle”—and watch the rain sheet down as we nibble. Shaun asks how rain is made and if birds can fly in it. He asks when it will stop raining but seems to be quite content in our warm, dry fortress. He only eats the frosting and candy decorations. Would he be satisfied, I muse, with an open can of frosting and a spoon? I doubt it.

Time to clean the kitchen together. Bowls, pans and wooden spoons are washed; flour is swept off the floor; crumbs are wiped from the counter. Priorities are reviewed as Shaun reflects on the project. “Mommy, I love Rainy Day Cake,” he hurries to reassure me, “but I love you more than anything else in the whole world.”

Our tradition celebrated again, cake pans are put away until the next rainy day.

Mary Comeau-Kronenwetter

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