“Be right back,” our next-door neighbor Sophia said.
The girls and I watched as she dashed inside her house. It was about 5 p.m. on a weekday, and the four of us were drawing with sidewalk chalk on Sophia’s driveway. The afternoon before, we had done the same thing on our driveway, so much so that the entire slab of concrete was covered in chalky pictures (Grace and Sophia) and scribbles (Anna).
This afternoon, Sophia had told us that her driveway had room for more pictures and scribbles.
Now, Sophia darted back outside. She held her hands out to us—two Hostess cupcakes. “These are my last ones,” she said.
Anna squealed and grabbed for one.
“Awww, thank you, Sophia,” I said. “You’re so nice.”
I read once, somewhere, that children like hearing that they’re nice. It boosts their self-esteem, apparently. Whenever my own child or someone else’s does something kind, I do my best to tell them so.
“What are these?” Grace wondered, eyeing the cupcakes. She could tell they were something good.
“These are called Hostess cupcakes,” I said. “I remember eating them when I was little. I haven’t had one in a long time though.”
“Why not, Mom?”
“Well…” I unwrapped the cupcakes for Grace and Anna. Sophia watched us, smiling. Where to begin? The saturated fat? The sugar? The infinite shelf life?
No, I wasn’t going to be “that” mom and ruin this sweet moment for these children with a soapbox on nutritional value.
“The truth is,” I said, “my mom used to buy these for me. But they’re not something I buy for myself. In fact,” I added before Grace could pepper me with another “Why?” “I remember the exact kitchen cupboard in my mom’s house where she kept our Hostess cupcakes.”
I also remembered, growing up as the oldest of four kids, that I often “claimed” and labeled any sweet treats that I wanted to save for later. I would grab a Hostess cupcake, scrawl “MELISSA’S FOOD: DO NOT TOUCH” across the packaging in black marker and hide it somewhere in the kitchen. (It goes without saying that my brothers and sister didn’t really appreciate me until our adulthoods.)
Sophia shared with us that her mom had bought these for her too. Then she said, “I miss my mom.” Her mom was out of town for a bit.
There are times that I, as a grown woman, miss my mom too. She lives halfway across the country from me—two plane rides, as Grace describes. I could only imagine how a child would miss her out-of-town mom.
That afternoon, I told my little neighbor that her mom must love her so much to buy her Hostess cupcakes. I had a feeling, though I didn’t read it anywhere, that kids like hearing that their families love them.
“My mom does love me,” Sophia agreed.
“I knew it,” I said.
Grace ate her last bite of chocolate cupcake. Anna licked some of her vanilla crème filling. Then her cupcake slipped from her fingers onto the driveway.
“Oh, no!” Sophia exclaimed. “That was my last one, remember?”
I did remember. I remembered how thoughtful it was for a mom to make sure her kitchen had a few sweet treats in it. I remembered how hard it was for a kid to share those treasures with other kids.
I scooped up Anna’s cupcake. I told Sophia again that she had been so nice and that the girls had loved their cupcakes. Sophia told me that I should get some cupcakes like hers the next time I was grocery shopping.
“You should, Mom,” Grace said.
Anna licked at the last of the vanilla crème filling on her fingers.
“Maybe,” I said.
Grace and Sophia rolled their eyes at each other.
Kids know what “maybe” usually means—“no.” I remembered that from my childhood too.
The kitchen cupboard with the sweet treats. The annoying-oldest-sister “claiming” of food. The eventual generosity that comes with motherhood.
“For sure, though,” I said, “we’ll do chalk together again really soon.”
The girls agreed that that sounded good.
Photo credit: Legends 102.7 WLGZ
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