Little things like strawberry buttermilk pancakes

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 4, 2015 8:38 PM

I am not a pancake person. I always think they’re heavy, that they just sit in your stomach forever and make you feel fat. But every once in awhile they seem to be just what’s needed. Such was the case this morning. We woke up early, as is the norm these days as we don’t yet have window coverings and are seriously considering never having them. We had a bit of coffee, then went for a walk. It’s the first Saturday we’ve had in over a year and a half when we didn’t have anything we absolutely had to get accomplished. We have unpacking to do, sure; and I had to go to the grocery store since we’re getting low on just about everything. But nothing was urgent. It was about stuff we wanted to do.

After our walk, we trudged up our very steep drive – we’re going to be in great shape in a month or so – and decided we were hungry. I always make a big breakfast on Sundays. It’s become a bit of a tradition, with some sort of egg dish, turkey bacon or chicken sausage, fruit, coffee. Kevin sometimes makes Bloody Marys. But as it was Saturday, and I still wanted to do eggs tomorrow, we decided to make pancakes.

Two years ago for Christmas my mom sent a care package. It was filled with a number of goodies from New Hampshire, including the best caramel corn we’ve ever had (we’ve reordered it several times) and a buttermilk pancake mix. As I said, I’ve never been big on pancakes. That was a Kevin and Justin thing. Many times when Justin was growing up and had a buddy or two sleep over, Kevin would man the kitchen the morning after to whip up some of Dad’s World Famous Pancakes. I would sit quietly in the other room with coffee and the newspaper. Let the boys have their time and gluttony together.

Perhaps my aversion to pancakes stems for the Infamous Parker’s Pancake Incident that my mother often recounts but that I have chosen not to recall. Evidently when I was a senior in high school and my Aunt Barbara was visiting, we all decided to go to a pancake place in New Hampshire called Parker’s Maple Barn. I don’t really remember Parker’s but I have heard over the years that they are located in Mason, some half hour or so from where we lived in Amherst, and that they make a mean breakfast, and specifically pancakes.

Being a teenager I was surly to begin with. I hated going anywhere with my family, especially early on a Sunday morning (which was probably closer to 11) and evidently I was missing my boyfriend. I hadn’t heard from him, and I was being taken away from the phone and so I behaved badly. To the point where everyone piled back into the car, took me home and then all returned – sans the offensive one – to have pancakes.

There’s a reason I’ve chosen not to remember the Infamous Parker’s Pancake Incident. If I did, I would be mortified. As it is, I’m horribly embarrassed.

So pancakes and I have history and it’s not pretty. Nevertheless, this buttermilk pancake mix that my mother sent and has re-sent several times, is killer. Light, fluffy, lovely. While Kevin was working in his office, I started breakfast. I mixed up the batter which only needs water but if you want them extra fluffy, calls for one egg as well. We had some strawberries so I sliced some up and mixed them in. Melted some butter on the griddle, got some syrup warming, some sausages sizzling, and proceeded to make pancakes. They weren’t Mom’s World Famous, and definitely a far cry from Dad’s but they weren’t bad.

Parker’s might even let me back into the building should I ever choose to show my face there again. Because after all this time I've realized, it's the little things in life that are sometimes worth celebrating the most. 

The annoyance of the little sister

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 21, 2014 9:36 PM

I have no recollection of my sister being born. I was nine days from being seven years old. It was four days before Christmas. I had other things on my mind. I wanted an Easy Bake Oven, not a little sister. I didn’t even like babies. Maybe that’s why I have no memory of her coming into my life but come she did.

I don’t know of too many older sisters who enjoyed having a new baby in the house, someone who you couldn’t play with and who cried a lot. I doubt my sister cried a lot though. She was always a good soul.

Because I was the oldest, with a younger brother as well, it fell to me to set the goal posts. I did everything first, breaking in the parents. I went to school, I got in trouble, I learned to drive, I got in more trouble, I went to college. Because my sister was – and is – just about seven years younger than I, we didn’t have much of a relationship other than “get out of my room.”

I babysat the two of them, the brother and sister. I brooded over perceived injustices. “Why do I have to watch them? Why can you get a babysitter?”

Through the years, I watched as the little sis bombed around the house, falling and hitting the bridge of her nose on the fireplace at least twice, giving herself two black eyes. I listened to her jabber on about nothing in particular and her bu-beans doll (don’t ask). I got mad when she took my talking Barbie into the bathtub, forever ruining the voice box so that the only thing that Barbie said was grlegiltuwilchgh bll.

She named our dog when she was three. I have no idea why she was given the honor. Perhaps because she was the only one who came up with something. I think she meant to call him Charlie but as she was just three, it came out Chaudee. The name stuck. That dog lived to be 19.

We weren’t close, my sister and I, not while I lived at home. She was simply my sister, just as Scott was just my brother. I was a selfish, horrible teenager, terrible to everyone in the family.

When I went away to college, I started to develop more of an appreciation for my siblings. My little sister even came to stay with me at school for at least one weekend. I hope she wasn’t too scarred by the experience.

When I got married the first time, I asked her to be my maid of honor. She was 19 and in college herself at that point. I remember flying back to New England for two weeks over the Christmas holiday and she and I going shopping for her dress. I didn’t want anything too traditional. I wanted it to be something that she actually could wear elsewhere if she so chose. We found a lace dress in a gray-taupe, that hung just to the knee. It looked fabulous on her. I think she looked better on my wedding day than I did, and I was just fine with that.

She came to visit me in California several times, especially after I got divorced. We went to Disneyland. We went to see The Phantom of the Opera. She eventually got engaged to a wonderful man named John. I was her matron of honor. By then I was involved with Kevin. When Kevin and I married several years later, she came with my parents. They all stood up with me.

Somewhere, sometime over the years, she and I became friends, then best friends. We share a family, we share a similar sense of humor, we agree on most things. We’re as close as we can be given that we live on opposite sides of the country. She’s the best person I know.

Today is her birthday and I’ve been thinking about her all day. We exchanged texts, the easiest way to communicate these days. As I thought of her today, I realized I didn’t care when she was born, or that I found her annoying when I was a kid. Because now I want to be like her when I grow up. She’s very special, to me and to all, and the definition of living it out loud.

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