This story is part of the Elbows on the Table Essay Series. Illustration by David Ziegler-voll.
As a kid, I tried to make Mother’s Day a decadent affair. Something sophisticated. But as someone who grew up thinking the Applebee’s in the strip mall was a fine dining experience, this was clearly a recipe for disaster.
On Mother’s Day, I would wake up early, too early– at least 2 hours before it was polite to be clanging pans around– to begin constructing a tower of pancakes.
Fretting back and forth from the stovetop to my slowly growing tower, I added layer upon layer upon layer, only stopping once the tower began to slump under the weight of so much syrup.
Because obviously, I added syrup as I went, and at the end.
Oh, but pancakes and syrup simply wasn’t enough. Not on Mother’s Day! My mom needed toppings, like strawberries dipped in chocolate, strawberries dipped in straight-up sugar, M&Ms™, chocolate chips, blueberries, and gummy candies. I’d pile them on and let them topple over the side to splash into the syrupy moat below.
Once my masterpiece was complete, I would trundle it up the stairs to my mom’s room. It would usually still be dark out, and so naturally, she would still be asleep.
The poor thing, peacefully sleeping and momentarily oblivious to what was about to happen to her. I’d approach, loom over her lit up and grinning like a Jack o’ Lantern to shout, “Wake up!”
How shocked my mother must have been on these mornings, I can only guess.
Alongside a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and atop a breakfast tray I had clumsily painted a rainbow on, the Mother’s Day breakfast tower was served.
Can you imagine? To be roused before dawn from a peaceful Sunday morning sleep, to then be immediately expected to eat a dozen cold, soggy pancakes coated in every form of sugar kept in the house. And to have to choke it down while your spooky little kid unblinkingly watches.
She must have been exhausted. She must have dreaded this breakfast every year.
But she would just smile with sleepy eyes and eat as much as she could while I watched.
And to all the parents, grandparents, guardians, older siblings acting like parents, very involved uncles, or what have you– thanks for looking out for those spooky kids.
For some recipes that would be far less shocking on mom’s system, check out these Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas.