“So how were the cupcakes?” I finally asked after a week of uncharacteristic silence. “Did Dina enjoy them? How about the card?”
It might have been tacky, but I was desperate to hear some kind of validation for my efforts.
I’d sent my new married couple, Shimmy and Dina, a tray of buttercream frosted cupcakes, my signature dish, in honor of Dina’s birthday. I’d spent a long morning decorating them until they looked like something out of a magazine. Then I showed the results to my teenagers for approval before sending them off, as I really wanted them to look perfect.
“Ma, everything you make is perfect,” said Shiffy, my 15-year-old. “My friends keep saying that you should open a bakery.”
“I already did,” I protested. “Twenty-three years ago, when I got married.”
My kids chuckled. I’m an old-fashioned homemaker who spends a lot of her life in the kitchen. I’m happiest wearing a flour-dusted apron, both ovens filled with delectable confections. And I pride myself on my clean counters; one of my biggest pet peeves is a messy kitchen. I can’t even bake unless the kitchen is spotless. I usually clean as I go along, so the aftermath of a baking spree is a breeze. My kitchen floors are mopped every night, and I can’t go to sleep if there’s a dirty dish lying in the sink. Yes, I’m that type of balebusta, which makes this story even more painful.
Last week, to mark my new daughter-in-law’s birthday, I’d presented her with a tray of cupcakes, prettily wrapped in cellophane, along with a cute card and poem.
But an entire week had passed and I hadn’t heard from her, or from my son. No phone calls, no texts, nothing. That was very unlike my sweet newlyweds, who called regularly and were grateful for my care packages.
I finally took the bull by the horns and called to see what was going on. But Shimmy’s response was rather cryptic.
“Uh, Dina enjoyed the poem, Ma,” he said. “Yeah, it was nice. Thanks a lot.”
I was silent, waiting for more. But Shimmy didn’t take the bait.
“Uh-oh!” he suddenly exclaimed. “I just looked at the clock. It’s pretty late and I have to go to afternoon seder.” He apologized and put down the phone a bit too quickly.
Something was off. Had I offended them? Was Dina upset with me for some reason? I tried so hard to be a good shvigger, keeping my mouth shut and my pocketbook open, as the experts advised.
Dina was my first daughter-in-law so I was new at this, but my married daughter, Mimi, assured me that I was doing a great job. Perhaps she knew what was going on. Dina often confided in her. I dialed Mimi’s number, a catch in my throat.
“Hi, Ma,” she said breezily. “I was just going to call you to ask if you have any vegetable soup in the freezer. Chaim has a bit of a cold, and he says there’s nothing like the shvigger’s soup to make you feel better.”
“At least someone appreciates the shvigger’s food,” I quipped, but it sounded hollow.
“Everyone appreciates your food, Ma,” she said. “Why do you say that?”