I found this picture of my mother today. She is holding a replica of the birthday cake her Aunt Mae would make her as a little girl. It was part of an installation I created for the Art of Food at the Carnegie Arts Center. She told me her Aunt Mae always made her a yellow cake with maraschino cherry frosting. I remember seeing her eat an entire jar of maraschino cherries once. It was one of her guilty pleasures along with candied watermelon rind and a vodka gimlet with extra lime juice.
Is there any way to really understand our mothers? As a mother myself, I often wonder if my son knows who I am. I try to show him who I really am now that I don’t have to pretend to be brave when I am scared or calm when I really just want to scream with frustration.
Today I hung up some pictures of women in the bakery from postcards I’ve collected. One woman is wearing 50’s style swimsuit. WooHoo. Another looks like she just cleaned the kitchen floor on her hands and knees, another wearing a mask for Halloween. All mothers? Perhaps? All are women first, mothers second. All of them having to figure out how to be a mother back then, today, and forever. Most of us still figuring it out.
I thought about myself as a little girl playing dolls. I really enjoyed feeding my Tiny Tears and especially liked changing her diapers, which I cleverly inserted tootsie rolls into for authenticity. I wanted to be just like my mother, the mother that made me cream cheese and jelly crackers and weak tea with milk and sugar. The mother that crushed up aspirin in chocolate syrup or grape jelly when I was sick. She didn’t really have that much time to play with her children. She had all four of us and a miscarriage by the time she was 30, but she had time to do EVERYTHING ELSE a mother has to do all while singing regularly throughout the house. I never remembered hearing her yell at any of us. She was lovely, wore her thick black hair in a chignon and I was just so happy that she was my mom. I never wanted to disappoint her.
On the rare occasion that she and my dad went out I would watch her with my eyes wide open as she curled her eyelashes, brushed on mascara, and painted her lips with bright red lipstick. She made me believe it was going to be wonderful to grow up and be a mother someday and it really was. I enjoy thinking about those sweet memories of my mother and the magic light I saw her in.
I often observe the mothers who work at BonBonerie juggling motherhood and their work lives. It’s as if they are running their own one-woman circus, expected to be the clown, ringleader, tightrope walker, and concessionaire all in the same day – and that’s after they made the cakes, cookies, and pastries and filled the orders for your family’s celebrations.
BonBonerie is a female owned and ninety-five percent female operated business where mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends are often found mothering each other, their friends and families, even our customers. I have discovered mothering is something women do whether they have or have not had children. No wonder there are lines out the door each Mother’s Day with all of you looking for a way to thank each of them. We never really forget simple acts of unconditional love set into our laps as children from our mothers. The idea of cream cheese and jelly on crackers and weak tea with milk and sugar still makes me feel good. It’s a memory that was transformative. It helped me understand the value of giving simply, beautifully, and with love. I hope we do that for all of you at BonBonerie each day.
Happy Mother’s Day.