In Memory of Kay Kim's Blogs

My Mother Bakes Cakes With Buttermilk


Credit: N.DallasGazelle

 

My family copes with my sister’s murder in various degrees.

 

For example, I make my brain numb for almost a year with merlot, cabernet, pinot noir, Mary Oliver, and Jesus. I can’t walk or breathe after the execution, but I can write. This is my sanity, my death, my new universe.

 

This is my escape from the darkest dark.

 

We do whatever we do to stay alive. We must keep walking, sleeping, awakening, smearing on red lipstick, and pretend we are breathing.

 

My mother bakes cakes with buttermilk.

 

She bakes chocolate cakes with old-fashioned cocoa icing, rhubarb-strawberry cakes, vanilla cakes spilling over in powdered sugar, and pumpkin cakes covered with Philadelphia cream cheese. Nothing she creates comes from a box.

 

“Sweetheart, did you know I can bake four or five cakes from just half a gallon of buttermilk?” She says.

 

When I walk into my mother’s house on Seaver Avenue & 95th— the aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar fills air like a resurrection. These scents are soothing, familiar, but at the same time, her tears. She passes slices of cake out to visitors and family on crimson china like kisses.

 

“Here, have some cake, you’ll feel better.” She says. What she doesn’t say is, “Please, eat this, and I’ll feel better.”

 

We used to open the front door after school to those same smells, that same abundant love. My stay-at-home mother is in her avocado-green kitchen baking cinnamon buns, or chocolate chip cookies, or her famous cakes with fluffy white and chocolate frostings. She is relentlessly contented, reachable, and exactly where she wants to be. It takes me several years of judgment and arrogance to realize this fulfilled, simple life was another form of feminism.

 

I have a dream that my sister walks through my mother’s kitchen door as if nothing has happened, sits down at the table and asks for a piece of cake…

 

“Where have you been,” I ask. “I’ve been looking for you.”

 

“Right here,” she says.

 

But she is gone. Gone. Three bullets. Then gone.

 

And we are desperately trying to hold on to what remains. A flower left out. An empty chair.

 

We do what we do to survive.

 

My mother bakes cakes with buttermilk. This is her mourning, her church, her daily hymn.

 

Halleluiah.   Amen.

 

This is how her hands talk and breathe, how her polished fingers grasp what is needed to measure, stir, crack eggs, and fold loss into her stainless steel bowls.

 

Nobody said life would be easy.

 

But I’m here to tell you life can still be miraculously beautiful.

 

Lemon tulips still bloom.   Spring still begins.     Poetry still rises.

 

…And my mother still bakes cakes with buttermilk.

 

Help for Domestic Abuse:

CALL the National Domestic Abuse Hotline TODAY: 1-800-799-7233


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19 Comments

  • Reply
    lisa thomson
    April 29, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Ohhhh, you’ve brought tears to my eyes again, Kim. I felt as though I were sitting in your mother’s kitchen with you. This line (although it’s hard to choose just one): “It takes me several years of judgment and arrogance to realize this fulfilled, simple life was another form of feminism.”

    I hope you are putting all of this beautiful and inspirational poetry and writings into a BOOK. It will serve so many who need your words to survive.

  • Reply
    Angie@Angie's Recipes
    April 29, 2017 at 11:38 am

    It was so sad to read that you had a dream of your beautiful sister having a cake in your mother’s kitchen…She lives forever in your heart, my dear friend.

  • Reply
    Tia
    April 29, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Love you 💋

  • Reply
    Nan @ lbddiaries
    April 29, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    My mom was strong and had many unbelievable careers. She spent time with my brother and I after each birth, then went back to work. somewhere in her early 60’s she retired to come home and create adventures with her first grandson, my son. It was one of her most favorite “careers” of all. Her choice, her decision. Which is exactly what the woman’s movement was supposed to be about – choices, no matter what they were, and being free to make them. Somewhere “staying home” was blown off as a choice or option, even back in the early ’70s. Even when I walked away from my career in the 90s to finish raising my son, an unbelievable opportunity given to me by Alpha Hubby, women sneered. Your wonderful mama has more strength than all others, then and now. I love this post SO much. So much. Kuss your mama for me and swipe a slice of cake, eat it for me and all the strong women out there who dare to do what they want, even in the face of sneering jeering judgmental snobbery (and, sigh, yes I was one of those too)!

  • Reply
    Elephants Child
    April 29, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    We never get over loss. We find a way to live with it. Mostly. And somedays it still bites and cuts us to the bone.
    Love your mother’s prayer.
    Hugs.

  • Reply
    Shamz
    April 29, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    There is so much grace and eloquence in your tribute to your mum and in many ways to all of you, as you survive each day, stop, breathe, smell and eat.
    My mum always bakes her cakes from scratch and it is a smell that never leaves me. It is infinitely more powerful than anything else because her love is in her food. I bet your mum is much the same. I am so gratified by your powerful words about the strength of your beautiful mother, and many women like her who say ” I am who I am.”
    I use buttermilk in my chocolate cake and every time I make one, I shall think of your mum.
    xxx

  • Reply
    Annette Connelly
    April 29, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    I believe your dream is prophetic.

    You’ll be eating your mom’s cake made with buttermilk with her, Kay and your dad.

    Kay is speaking to you through your dreams.

    Can I join you for a piece of cake one day?

    Little Chickie

  • Reply
    Peta Kaplan
    April 30, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Kim this is so beautifully touching and moving. My brother committed suicide when he was 24 and my mother , all of us, have never been the same since. Not possible. The pain remains like a deep wound that never heals. I too dream of him often. Sometimes I ask him in the dreams are you dead or alive?” Or “where have you been?” The dream is always that I find out he is still alive.

    Your writing is beautiful and poignant. Good your mom has her baking routine to give some feeling of “normal” even though everything has changed and will never be normal.

    Bug hugs your way from Sri Lanka,
    xoxo
    Peta

  • Reply
    Peta Kaplan
    April 30, 2017 at 3:26 am

    Kim this is so beautifully touching and moving. My brother committed suicide when he was 24 and my mother , all of us, have never been the same since. Not possible. The pain remains like a deep wound that never heals. I too dream of him often. Sometimes I ask him in the dreams are you dead or alive?” Or “where have you been?” The dream is always that I find out he is still alive.

    Your writing is beautiful and poignant. Good your mom has her baking routine to give some feeling of “normal” even though everything has changed and will never be normal.

    Big hugs your way from Sri Lanka,
    xoxo
    Peta

  • Reply
    Hilary
    April 30, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Hugs
    I can relate to your mom…. I had a rough winter, and when I felt the worst I baked cupcakes from scratch and made homemade frosting.

  • Reply
    Kim Gagnon
    April 30, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Love you Kimmy 💋

  • Reply
    Shay from Trashy Blog
    April 30, 2017 at 10:56 am

    Beautiful and sad, Kim. Prayers to you, friend!

  • Reply
    Dad
    April 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    Well done Kim, The cake even tastes better than it looks.
    Love You
    Dad

  • Reply
    Anna @ shenANNAgans
    May 1, 2017 at 12:25 am

    The aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and brown sugar make me nostalgic at the best of times! Hugs and love to you and yours. xox

  • Reply
    Susan Boswell
    May 1, 2017 at 6:28 am

    A beautiful, beautiful piece Kim. And a beautiful testimony to your mother and her efforts to keep your family alive, moving forward and thriving. It occurs to me- despite many feelings otherwise- we can only live in the present. Your mom must innately know that and shows her love for her family in such beautiful ways. Xxoo Susan

  • Reply
    Mandy
    May 1, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    One day I will visit and I will bake with you and your mom. Yes! Can’t wait!
    Love to you darling Kim from Kenya. Here with my Pete for a while.
    🙂 Mandy xoxoxo

  • Reply
    Jeri
    May 2, 2017 at 10:11 am

    When my ex hit the road, I think I mostly coped by working. My tendency has always been to try to keep things as normal as possible. That is and isn’t healthy. Sometimes, that immersion in a task is indeed a huge saving grace.

  • Reply
    Linh B
    May 2, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Hi,

    I love how you describe your feelings when you see your mom still bakes as her favorite thing. Besides that, your sister will be always staying near your mom’s kitchen and your family! By the way, great post because it brought my tears 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris Carter
    May 3, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I’m in tears… with groans of grief and a sigh of surprising fulfillment. It’s your words that do it all. I said that last post you wrote was my favorite, but now this? Your writing has always had a profound impact on me, but these past two take the cake…

    Made with buttermilk. 😉

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