Recently one of my granddaughters and I were discussing cooking and food. Nothing new here…we often discuss food. I remember how special it was one day to tie an apron around her tiny waist, stand her on a chair and let her help me cook. I think we made mac and cheese in a saucepan or something similar to that. And of course, before you click your tongue, I had turned the stove off during the time she was “stirring” and I did everything with her safety in mind. Really, what else would you expect. I guard my treasure and my grandchildren are some of my treasures.
Anyway, we got on the topic of pancakes. Both of us love pancakes. We even both love blueberry pancakes! With visions of preparing a family breakfast together, I asked her if she had a special blueberry pancake recipe. No, she declared. She only likes blueberry pancakes from iHop! FIDDLE! My visions melted away, but it did start a trip down memory lane.
One particular memory stays vivid in my mind. It haunts me a bit and I hope it always will. You see, I didn’t always like pancakes. I remember like it was this morning a time when my frustration with pancakes bubbled over…and frustration bubbling over wasn’t something you did in my family growing up. We had too much respect for our parents, and had been raised well if I do say so myself. But this particular day my younger brother and I had been playing outdoors after completing our chores. It was probably a summer weekday or else other siblings would have been home from their summer jobs. I’m guessing I was somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. (Age has never been super critical to me so I’m not entirely sure.) I remember Mom calling out the door that we were to come in for lunch. With a big smile she gave us each a pancake that she had sprinkled sugar on and rolled up like a jelly roll. “Take it outside and eat it.” Normally I would be thrilled to eat outside, but seriously- a pancake? And not even any syrup? As we scampered out the door without a backward glance, I remember saying, “I HATE pancakes.” It seemed to me we had them often, so obviously Mom must love them a lot.
It wasn’t until years had passed that I realized what had probably happened. You see, we were loved so much that I didn’t realize we were poor. Never did I realize as a child that other families may live differently than us. I thought Mom loved sewing so much that she enjoyed making our clothes. I thought Dad loved his work and that was why he spent so many hours there. Oh, I knew there were a few kids with more “things”, but I just thought they were probably spoiled kids, you know? In my heart’s eye I can see my mother looking out the window at her two youngest children, saying to herself, “Lord, what can I possibly feed them today?” I can see her opening the cupboard doors and seeing a few basic staples on the shelf. (That woman could make more from a few basics than anyone I ever met!) I can see her taking out the flour and sitting it on the counter and reflecting that she was blessed to still have some flour on hand. My heart almost cracks as I mentally see her mixing up batter…enough for two pancakes. Trying her best to make it special, I can see her looking in the sugar bowl for those few grains of sugar and deciding she didn’t want sugar in her coffee anyway. Then, my heart cracks a little more as I see her cheerfully calling us to come get lunch, and sending us outside on a little picnic so we wouldn’t see the empty batter bowl and notice she wasn’t “hungry” for lunch. And then pain slices through me as I hear myself say, “I HATE pancakes!”. And in retrospect, I can see Dad coming home that night and mom greeting him at the door with a kiss, and a look into his eyes that said how much she appreciated his efforts to provide for his family.
I learned several lessons from this childhood memory. I’ll quickly share three. One is that poor is a state of mind. The fact that I never considered us poor speaks well to the upbringing our parents provided. We may have scraped the bottom of the barrel at times, but we never went without something to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads. We did things as a family, and had fun! Another lesson is that love is a powerful force that can embrace and protect in amazing ways. (If you don’t think so, just think about God’s love.) It isn’t about keeping our loved ones from hard experiences, but about helping our loved ones THROUGH hard experiences. Tough times will come, but we can get through them…together. And finally, when we dig deeper in trying to learn and understand one another, our preconceived perceptions often change dramatically.
What can I say? I LOVE pancakes. Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad.