mother’s day and a fair warning

It was weekly card night, and Sam had just headed out to play cards with his friends. These nights used to annoy me, but now I look forward to an evening with the television turned off, when I can read in the silence of my sleeping home and go to bed even earlier than I normally do.  Or, when I can catch up on blog posts or Twitter or New York Times articles, without feeling guilty for not paying attention to The Voice or American Pickers.

I sat on the sofa, with a cat curled up on my legs, honoring me with her presence, and with my laptop open and resting on my lap. I came across this opinion piece in the Times, a short documentary about a woman whose mother died from colon cancer. I realized halfway through watching it, that my cheeks were wet.

In the Times video op-ed piece, author and filmmaker Judith Helfand, includes several pieces of footage of her mother. In one, she’s lying in a hospital bed in her apartment, her feet moving up as her daughter figures out to work the bed’s remote control. In another, she’s being serenaded at Rosh Hashanah. In the most poignant scene of them all, the narrator, struggling to keep it together, asks her mother how a person can live without her mother. There is a long, uncomfortable hesitation. “You just do,” the mother says. It’s clear she really doesn’t want to answer this question.

I would give anything for a video of my father, alive once more, if only on a television screen.

Which got me to thinking. Why do we not video our parents more?  Or at all? My husband is so diligent in pulling out the camcorder on the major holidays, but his lens is always focused on the kids. When he trains it on me, I cringe away, trying to avoid being filmed. We never thought to capture on video our fathers before they died. I don’t think we have a single video of our mothers.

We video our children in order to preserve the memories of our babies: their first Christmas and the ones thereafter, Easter egg hunts, opening birthday presents surrounded by their party-hat-wearing and sugar-drunk school friends. But our parents – if the natural and proper order of life and death is preserved – will leave us long before our children will. And what will we be left with? Sam and I have learned this acutely in the past 10 months. We’ve been left with a just handful of photographs and our own faulty memories, memories that will surely fade and blur around the edges as time goes on.

We took my mother out to lunch on Saturday, an early Mother’s Day lunch. Mom and I each had a mimosa to accompany our meal, and our conversations centered around my children and their activities. We had a lovely time in that restaurant, surrounded by better-dressed customers than ourselves, enjoying Spanish/Cuban cuisine made tastier by the warming influence of champagne. I didn’t pull out the video camera, but the thought hasn’t left my mind.

I know that, one day, my mother will not be here. If my 90 year old maternal grandmother is any indication of longevity on that side of the family, my mother will be with us for quite a long while still. But  I want to preserve every bit of my mother, now, while she’s vibrant and here. I don’t want to miss my chance.

So here’s your fair warning, Mom. Get ready to be on camera. And Happy Mother’s Day.

*   *   *   *   *

So, wow. This post has nothing to do with this cake. Except that it sort of does. It’s been too long since I baked a layer cake, and my son had put in a special request for a chocolate cake. I figured Mother’s Day weekend was the perfect time to bake myself (and the kids) a treat. This chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting was that treat. And it was indeed, the perfect one.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

When you're in the mood for a slice of decadent chocolate cake, this is the one you want to make. The cake is moist and rich, and it's a breeze to make. The frosting recipe is from Robyn of Add a Pinch, and it makes the cake a true treat for any chocolate lover.


2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups ( 210 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (88 grams) unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup (8 ounces) black coffee
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 recipe Perfect Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Heat oven to 350°F, with oven rack in middle position. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment-lined pans.

Whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, sour cream, coffee, oil, and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes (Batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove cakes carefully from pans and cool on wire racks until room temperature before frosting.

To frost cakes, place 1 layer on a cake plate. With an offset spatula, spread top with chocolate frosting. Place the second layer on top, and spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.

Slightly adapted from the famous Hershey's Black Magic Cake recipe.