Friday, April 6, 2012

My soup didn’t fix her

My friend was very sick. For six years she looked into cancer’s beady little eyes and stared it down until it whimpered, turned, and ran away. But, it came back last year, brought its bully pack, and this time it was really mad.

I made her soup on Monday. By Tuesday she was too weak to eat it. On Wednesday she decided it was time to go. On Thursday she fell asleep and  went to heaven. I don’t understand and I am so sad. Our friend is gone and I can’t fix it. I’m afraid.
I go through my old emails and read her notes to me about silly things like cheap costume satin, velvet bell-bottoms, Japanese pop videos and where to find a giant gong for the school dance. I imagine that I can talk to her by pressing "send" but I know that her consistently witty response will not follow.

We’re all still trying to work it out in our own way. We keep on doing what we do: driving the carpool, answering emails, checking the kids’ homework.  But sometimes I just find myself staring into space, thinking about her girls, thinking about her husband, thinking about my own fear, until I catch myself and try to shake it off one more time.

Every day, as I make my rounds from school to work to the market to the baseball field, I catch the gaze of a friend who I know is doing the same thing. In front of school, two moms speak in hushed tones with lowered heads and heavy hearts. At church, a family kneels together, quiet in prayer. Somehow I know that this Sunday, their thoughts are focused on our loss, not on their to-do lists or the guy behind them singing horribly off-key.
It’s not that I want to see my community in pain. But selfishly, I feel comforted that I am not alone.
As the days pass though, and our conversations begin to expand beyond shock and grief, I know that all of us left behind are going to be OK…because we have to.  Thankfully we have each other as a reminder that there really is no other option. As my friend would have undoubtedly said to me with her trademark, no-nonsense conviction, “Just get over yourself!”

So, as I try to get over myself, I look back just one week and wrap myself in the blanket of support that swaddled our little community during her memorial.  The mass was perfect and afterward, a dedicated group of moms made certain that the standing-room-only crowd was welcomed with a beautiful homegrown reception. I made some cupcakes.

My soup didn’t fix her but making those cupcakes, sharing them with our friends and marveling at the tables filled with countless delicacies prepared with love by others, started to fix me, just the tiniest little bit.

I hope these little cupcakes make you feel a little bit better too one day when you are sad.
That’s all I have to say.

Mini Banana Cupcakes
with Chocolate Peanut Buttercream
For the Banana Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°
Cream together until fluffy:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
Beat in thoroughly:
  • 2 large eggs
Sift together and set aside:
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sift then measure)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Mix together in small bowl:
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 biggies)
Mix wet and dry ingredients gradually into butter/sugar mixture alternately until just combined.
Fill mini cupcake tins lined with paper cups about 2/3 full and bake for about 10 minutes until puffed and just done.
Makes about 5-6 dozen little yummies

For the Chocolate Peanut Buttercream
Gently melt and cool to room temp:
  • 8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
Mix in a small saucepan, heat until smooth then cool to room temp:
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 Tablespoons of water
Cream together:
  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
Add in and beat until smooth:
  • Melted bittersweet chocolate from above
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Gradually add in and beat until fluffy and lightened in color:
  • cocoa mixture from above
  • 3 1/3 cups more powdered sugar
  • 2 giant heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter (as much as will balance on your spoon as you scoop it out of the jar)
Note: I garnished each cupcake with a little banana chip and a mini peanut butter cup (both from Trader Joe's).