“My Gutsy Story®”- Lola Di Giulio De Maci
I could always tell it was pie-baking day when I came home from school. The container of cinnamon was sitting on the kitchen counter alongside the sugar bowl. Mom was getting ready to make apple pie. That meant cinnamon rolls made from leftover pie dough. The sweet smell of cinnamon tickled my nose. I could hardly wait.
The recipe called for flour, shortening, salt, plus five spoonfuls of cold water. “You have to use cold water,” Mom would insist. “That’s the secret to making the best crust.” She took out her cookbook.
“Here’s the recipe,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “Cinnamon Pinwheels.” She handed me the cookbook as if she were presenting me with the secret as to what makes the Golden Gate Bridge golden. I accepted the gift, opening the book with reverential awe.
But it wasn’t a “real” recipe at all – just a pinch of this and a handful of that.
“Was this your mother’s recipe?” I asked Mom. The pages were worn with splotches of sugar and flour.
“Yes,” Mom nodded. “And my mother got it from her mother. Your grandmother, Ruth, baked just about every day: pies, cakes, cookies. But mostly bread. There was always a fresh loaf of bread on the table. ‘The staff of life,’ she would say.”
At that moment I knew I wanted to be just like my mom and grandma. When I grew up, I wanted to feed my family “the staff of life.” I was determined to learn that magic formula that my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother had perfected.
With the rolls piping hot from the oven, Mom would pour herself a cup of coffee, and I would get myself a glass of milk. Sitting side by side on the sofa, we celebrated the swirly treat. Just my mom and me. This was our special time. Bite by bite, I would make my way through the cinnamon roll to the “luscious lump” of dough, sugar, and cinnamon in the center – my favorite part.
“Can you make these pinwheels again tomorrow?” I would ask Mom. I couldn’t wait for the next pie-baking day.
And then one day Mom couldn’t remember some of the ingredients that went into making the rolls. I didn’t know a lot about Alzheimer’s, but I did know that I wanted to help her remember – anything. Mom was now living in a retirement home, and I would visit her for hours. Sometimes we talked. Sometimes we didn’t. It wasn’t easy watching my mother disappear into another world. And yet, it was an honor to sit with her…and dream.
Store-bought cinnamon rolls sat silently on the kitchen counter in her new home, waiting to be opened. I would take out two pretty plates from the cupboard and place a cinnamon roll on each. Then I would grab her big, caramel-colored mug with the word “Mom” etched on it in bold, curvy letters, fill it with coffee, and hand it to her. The mug with the brightly-colored Christmas tree painted on it was for me. No matter what time of the year it was, I loved the feeling of Christmas in my hands. It seemed to offer so much promise.
“Mom, I want you to make cinnamon pinwheels for me,” I would say kiddingly, taking her hand. “Just the way you used to make them. I loved them more than anything in the world.” And she would laugh. And I would laugh. I knew this was an impossible request – and maybe she did too – but that wasn’t the point. Maybe I wanted to remember for the both of us.
Mom’s been gone for eight Septembers now. She lived to be ninety-three years old. I think about Mom’s final days and how her illness stole her away from us. There were times I cried because I wanted my mother back. And then I would quickly replace those unimaginable thoughts with the many good times we had together. Shared memories. Mom could take something as ordinary and unpretentious as a cinnamon roll and celebrate it.
Thanks to my mom I have learned to see and celebrate the simple, unbridled joys of everyday living. A noisy squawk jay on my patio. A card from a friend in my mailbox. A cinnamon roll on a pretty plate. I have come to know and appreciate the beauty and splendor the world has to offer me.
And I am grateful. Very grateful.
Lola Di Giulio De Maci is a retired teacher whose stories appear in several editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Ultimate Series, Tending Your Inner Garden, Reminisce, various newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, and children’s books and magazines. She enjoys crossword puzzles, journaling, handwritten notes/letters, her children, and new beginnings. Lola earned a Master of Arts in education and English and continues writing from her loft overlooking the San Bernardino Mountains. Contact her at: LDeMaci@aol.com.
SONIA MARSH SAYS: Lola, what a beautiful story of love and gratitude for the small things in life that bring us pleasure. Something to remember during this busy holiday season.
I am leaving for London, Copenhagen, Paris and Amsterdam for the holidays. I shall post photos and news about my trip, so I hope you enjoy following me on my trip.