Some rituals we carry with us from childhood with a smile. Passing these delights on to our children is not just a right of passage, it’s a gift to enjoy.
When I was a young child, I had the luxury on Sundays, and for a month every summer, to spend time alone with my Mom. No siblings, no school and no work. When I was a very small child my Dad would pick up my older brother and sister each Sunday morning for a day of visitation. I stayed home, always, to be alone with my Mom. My father moved away when I was around 6 or 7 and for several years my older brother and sister would go off to stay with him for the month of August with his other family in Tennessee. I never went, I was a Mama’s girl and liked that month to have Mommy to myself. Sunday’s alone together had primed me for our time alone together these long summer months. Sundays were when my mother would sigh and linger over her coffee and make me something special for a late breakfast. August became a continuation of that special time, Sunday breakfast still being a particularly lovely highlight.
My mother was a single mother before being a single mother was really a ‘thing’. I was born in 1960, on the cusp of the revolution, and my mother, born in the late 1930’s never got to be cool or revolutionary. She missed the spirit of the sixties altogether, having responsibilities in the form of 3 young children. The sixties and early seventies were most notable for their lack of responsibility, for their freedom to do what ever one pleased, for their inclusion. My Mom was left out of it all. She was too busy packing our lunches, worrying about our vaccinations, figuring out how to send us to camp and fixing the various and sundry bumps, bruises, gashes and broken bones that the 3 of us were prone to. Being normal kids at a time when parents told you to go out and play and meant it, we did just that, and sometimes ‘that’ was a bit of a disaster. We had the added (dis)advantage of being left alone in the afternoons between the hour we arrived home from school and the later hour when Mom arrived home on the bus after a day of work. She would be tired, and we would be troublesome. 3 children vying for some attention, infighting between sisters, enough to make even the most patient parent erupt. Our mother was not the most patient of parents.
When all three of us were home we overwhelmed our mother. At the time I never understood her frustration with us for the books and shoes and socks strewn about on a daily basis in our otherwise orderly apartment. I never got why she would go into a rage over dirty dishes in the sink or a stain on the new couch. I was a kid, doing kid like things, and she never seemed to understand that. Except on Sunday mornings. There we’d be, just the two of us, the front door closed behind my older siblings. Time would slow down to a speed we both savored. She would play silly games with me, tickle torture me, read me the comics, or work a puzzle with me for hours. She could get me to take a nap by reading to me, something she never had time for otherwise, when my siblings took up two thirds of her time. It was always so much fun to catch her actually snoozing alongside me when I woke, and then wake her up. Poor Mom, I know now how much that catnap must have meant to her and how devastating it was for me to destroy it.
But the one thing that I remember most about the days when it was just me and my Mom home alone, were “Surprise Eggs”. Surprise eggs are my favorite breakfast, a holdover from my childhood, that I always assumed Mom had invented JUST FOR ME! They are really not uncommon, people just call them by other names.
Eggs in a nest, bullseye eggs, eggs in a basket. They were eggs cooked inside a piece of bread. A circle or a heart would be cut out of the center of the slice of bread, and both of these pieces would be fried up with an egg in the cut out area of the slice. To serve me this delectable treat, Mom would place the slice of bread, now buttery and crispy, on the plate and cover the egg in its center with the disc she had cut out of the slice. This covered egg cooked and hiding there in plain sight was magic to me. How did she get that egg into the bread? How could this culinary magic exist in my otherwise stoic mother’s repertoire? Isn’t that the thing about childhood that we all love to remember, how magical the mundane could be?
Some 35 years later, well into my own stint at motherhood, I tried this magic on my two sons. This was to be to no avail. Something changed between 1965 and the 2000’s. Magic was replaced by technology. No surprise in their eggs could compete with what was being thrown out at my kids everyday on their devices. None of my mundane breakfast adventures could ever make them clap with the glee I remembered growing up in a small apartment with a tired mother, frying up an egg, just the two of us on Sunday morning. However, I have hope. Just the other day, my son Nathan texted me, asking for my recipe for “Wowie” cake. But “Wowie” cake is another story. Another bit of magic from my past, that perhaps has taken hold.