Recently a childhood neighbor of mine stopped in at The Bonbonerie and asked to see me. There was a glimmer of her childhood self in her face, but I hadn’t seen her in 50 years (that is something older people should never say as young people are in total disbelief). She handed me a picture that her sister Peggy had found and wanted me to have. It was of Peggy and me proudly holding this horrible looking cake both of us wearing two piece bathing suits. I do not remember anything about this, but it made me smile to think that Peggy went to the trouble to give it to me. Our neighbors were lovely in Finneytown. Everyone had at least a family of four children, the O’Malley’s had seven.
My Mom told me the other day that she doesn’t remember engaging in many activities with us like so many parents do today and she decided that it was probably because she really didn’t have the time. Working as a teacher, cooking meals, shopping and doing laundry as well as house cleaning kept her very busy. She said we must have amused ourselves. We certainly did.
One thing I do remember my Mom doing with me however, was to create fruit shapes out of warm hard boiled eggs by pressing the warm freshly peeled eggs into the shapes of bananas , pears and apples , painting them with food coloring, then poking cloves into the tops as stems. We only did it once for one of her bridge parties, but I clearly remember that afternoon.
Another thing she occasionally did was to prepare our lunches with fanciful joy. One example of that would be turning a banana into a butterfly by splitting it down the center, laying it flat and dotting the top with miniature marshmallows and peanut butter. Sometimes she would make me a pear rabbit using canned pear halves as the body, a tail of cream cheese shaped into a ball rolled in nuts, marshmallows for ears and raisin eyes. Bringing fun to us at the kitchen table was like play from her hands.
When I wasn’t home in the summer, I know some of my time was spent baking with friends where cakes, cookies or brownies would be gobbled up in a minute by their siblings. One day I remember going to my friend Chris’ house and her mother decided to bake us a cake. I am certain it was from a mix, but the icing is what opened my eyes to something I thought was extraordinary. I watched as her mother measured out the Crisco into a mixing bowl whipping it into great heights then slowly adding powdered sugar, clear vanilla with a bit of milk to obtain the most bilious white mountain of fluffy icing I had ever seen. It was as close to a real bakery cake with icing peaks and swirls I had ever seen. My mother’s recipe always consisted of melting margarine, adding powdered sugar and vanilla with a bit of milk and practically pouring the icing over a cake. That was not like Chris’s mom’s fantastic looking frosting and I begged my Mother to try it. She didn’t take the bait.