Thursday, June 10, 2010

Heart-Shaped Chocolate Chip Muffins

The other day my three year-old daughter said to me, "Mommy, I'm bored!".  I hear this phrase from her regularly and my own mother believes it's karma at work, so I try to be sympathetic.  I remember what it was like to feel at loose ends and know that if only my mother would put her mind to it, she could think of something amazing to entertain me.  So I did my best.

Me:  Do you want to do art?
V:    No.
Me:  Wanna do a puzzle together?
V:   No.
Me: Want to play in the sandbox?
V:   No.
Me: Uh... how about making chocolate chip muffins?
V:   Yea!!!

We had a winner.  I asked Violet to go to her pretend kitchen and find my Grandmother's tiny heart-shaped muffin tins.  I let the girls play with them, but we'd never actually cooked with them before and I don't know why I thought about it now.  Violet seemed confused, but obeyed.  She was back in a flash and proudly handed me her muffin tins.  We washed them out and made our batter.

I poured the batter into the muffin tins and thought of my grandmother and how much she would have loved watching the proceedings.  My Grandma Willie never got to meet Violet, but I know she would have enjoyed cooking with Violet, just as she had with me.  She would have loved Violet's sense of humor, her sweet smile, and most of all, her love of unusual words and phrases.  Violet plays around with words and entertains herself by using words in interesting ways, just like my grandmother did.  A few days ago she said, "Mom, I had an INCREDIBLE day today."  When I asked her what made her day incredible, she told me a long story involving flying bears, beautiful princesses, and free candy.  Clearly, she understands what "incredible" means.  And this happens every day.  Sometimes she sings songs using her new words and last week we started playing a "word of the day" game.  Recent words of the day include "exuberant", "Antarctica", and her favorite, "Bingo!", which I explained means "You got it!"  or "That's right!".  She likes to use this expression whenever somebody does something to her satisfaction, like when her father guesses that she wants ice cream for dessert.  Bingo!

My grandmother and I also had our own special word game.  When I'd come home from college, my grandmother would try to think of a word or phrase I'd never heard before and "casually" sneak it into a sentence.  I think the game started accidentally, but we continued playing for the rest of her life and we always pretended that it was not a game, but a naturally occurring event.   I looked forward to the moment in each visit when she'd come up with some crazy new idiom.  One of the first times we played this game, we were discussing my mother's test results from a recent doctor's appointment.  She said,  "Oh, I was standing gander."  I acted shocked, only partially acting, "What does THAT mean?  I've never heard that one before!"  She gave me a sly smile and coyly respond, "Really?  Oh, that's just an old country expression.  I can't believe you don't know that one!  Standing gander means you're waiting for something to happen.  Like in the old days when a man would stand around pacing and  listening at the door, while his wife was having a baby in another room."  At some point later in the visit I'd find a way to work the expression into another conversation with her.  I can't remember how I used the phrase "standing gander", but I remember that it was a tricky one.

It was always fun to see my grandmother and we continued this game over the phone once I moved to California.  My daughter Violet gets the same pleasure out of using words to entertain others and although I'd never considered the similarity between my daughter and my grandmother until we started making our muffins, it seemed so obvious now.

As the heart-shaped muffin tins went into the oven, I thought about how lucky I was to have known such an amazing woman and how lucky I am to have the chance to raise a little girl who is so much like my grandmother in this way.  And I silently thanked my mother for giving me the cast-aside muffin tins that made this wonderful revelation possible.