“Ready to help me baby?” I move her step stool so she has a better view of what I’m doing. I hope that one day, when she’s older – maybe when she has her own home – she’ll make chicken pot pie too. I grab the bowl out of the fridge, split the dough ball in half, and return the rest in the bowl to the fridge. Spreading the flour out onto the wooden counter I see her little fingers itching to play in the white powder.
“Just watch Ginny, you see this?” I hold the cold dough now rolled into a neat ball in front of her. I take her clean fingers and gently press them in to the flour, then I let her feel the fold velvety dough. She giggles as she pulls her hand out of my grasp. I toss the flour around, slowly working the dough so that it won’t stick to the table. Is she learning how to do this too?
“Okay baby, watch this, okay?” She dutifully nods her head, then stares as I start rolling out the dough. I see her fingers slowly creep up to the edge of the counter, then her fingers are in the flour. “Ginny!?! You’re going to make a mess!” My tone is harsher than I meant it, and she instantly withdraws, wiping her hands on her shirt.
As soon as she realizes the smears of white powder on her purple shirt her big eyes get teary, followed the standard “get it off” wiping that just adds to the mess – she’s stuck in a messy circle. “Okay, wait, just wait, it’s okay.” A sudden tizzy of trying to fix the mess I’ve created thanks to the mess she created. I find myself dropping the rolling pin that promptly rolls off of the counter and down to the ground as I rush to get a wet paper towel. “It’s okay, you’re not in trouble, I’m sorry for raising my voice. It’s just a little flour, watch…” I gently pat her shirt with the damp cloth in my hand and flour disappears.
She sniffles a bit “Thank you Mommy.”
“You’re welcome.” I say, pressing my lips against her baby-soft cheek. I could kiss her all day, if only she’d sit still that long. I pick the rolling pin up from the spot it has rolled to. A quick wash, and we’re back in business. She watches as the dough is pressed out into a wide circle.
“How did it get so big?” She asks in wonder. “It’s so thin now.” I smile, she’s always been observant – she’s keen, I love that about her. We talk as I roll out the other three crusts, letting her spread the flour and help with the rolling.
I hope she remembers this kind of stuff.
As I step out of the room to find the pie plates I remind her, “be careful baby, we don’t want to make a big mess.”
Wasted words, as my quick return is greeted with a flour-covered kitchen and a teary-eyed child whose purple shirt is now white. “Ginny, wh… what did you do?!”. My cheeks flush in anger, frustration clear in my voice. I’m on a schedule, I’ve got to get dinner to another family. How can one cup of flour cover an entire room?
Ginny wipes her hands on her shirt one more time before hanging her head in defeat. “I’m sorry for helping Mama.”
Instantly I’m pressing her little floured body to mine, one hand cradling her neck like you would a newborn as I take a deep breath through my nose. She hasn’t smelled like newborn in a long time, but her scent still intoxicates me.
“Oh baby, you never have to apologize for helping.” Now is not the time for lessons on following directions. My shoulders feel heavy with regret, as I feel her long legs swaying back and forth. “Some times I get upset, and I’m sorry for being frustrated, I know you didn’t mean to make a big mess.”
She wiggles her little frame out until I relent and set her down. “I’ll clean it up Mama, I’ma get my broom from the play room.” Her little feet pitter-patter across the floor. She tries so hard. I need to lighten up.
Regret, the kind that catches in my throat, the kind that tells me I’ve done it again. I didn’t raise my voice – a step in the right direction. A small pat on the back, because that is something I’ve struggled with, but it’s obviously not enough. It’s not enough to not yell. I’ve instantly ruined what should’ve been a precious moment because I stressed out about flour on the floor. Another penny in my bank of self-deprecation. I hate myself for every second like this. I hate that I have yet to master my reactions.
I hope I remember this. I hope that I don’t ruin anything else.
She reappears moments later with her broom, and we sweep the floor, her little bare feet between mine as I help her master the movements. Eventually we empty the dustpan in to the trash and I scoop her up into my arms, burying my head against her little tummy while she runs her fingers through my too-short hair. “I love you Mama.” She says, leaning back a little she takes my face in her hands, then forces a kiss on me. I squeeze her, wishing I could hold her little body forever.
“I love you too baby, I love you too.”