“Mama, can I help you cook?” Hadley asks me when she spots me with my finger on a recipe for Raspberry Crumb Bars from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.
She sits cross legged on the kitchen counter, hunched forward working on writing words she knows: “Hadley,” “Harper,” “Mom,” “Dad,” “No Boys Allowed.” Her hair is swept up in a pink ribbon to match the black and pink sweatshirt and leggings she’s wearing. I keep my finger on the ingredient list for the Raspberry Crumb Bars and look towards her. Her four year old fingers grip the marker she’s writing with and her eyes are lowered so I get the full effect of her eyelashes.
“Yes, you can help me cook.” I say.
“Great!” she puts the marker down, and swings her legs around to let them dangle off the counter.
The sun pours into our condo, and I see shadows of tree branches on the walls above the bookshelves. I look for buds.
“Can you help me get down, Mama?”
“Sure.” I place my hands under Hadley’s armpits and hoist her on my hip. I should put her on the ground, but just because I can still do it, just because she still fits perfectly on my hip, I hold her for a second and give her a kiss on her cheek.
“OK, so what ingredients do we need?” Hadley asks, all business.
I put her down and we step over to the pantry to get the flour and sugar. “Never Say Never” by The Fray plays on the radio. The lead singer pleads, “don’t let me go” over and over.
“I love this song.” I say as I dump a pound of butter into a saucepan.
“Mmmmm, I don’t really like it. It’s not fast.” Hadley’s at my hip standing on tip toes with her hands on the oven door. She reaches her neck out as far as she can to see what’s going on.
I put my hand on her head and say, “OK, when this melts, we’re going to mix it with the flour then pat it down to make a crust.”
“OK.” Hadley says, and then begins to pick her nose.
“OH, Hadley, yuck! You can’t do that if you want to help me!”
“Sorry.” She says.
“It’s OK. Go to the bathroom and wash your hands.” I say. I move the butter around the pan so it won’t brown.
Hadley comes back and shows me her hands are damp from being washed.
“Thank you, Hadley.” I say, and hand her a spoon and a bowl. She puts them on the counter next to the stove where I am, then brings over a stool to stand on.
“I’m sorry I picked my nose, Mama.”
I pour a cup and a half of flour in her bowl, and then add the melted butter.
“Stir that together.” I tell her.
“The most important thing to know about this recipe is that nobody wants boogers in their Raspberry Crumb Bars.” I take the spoon and scrape the sides of the bowl.
Hadley shrugs her shoulders and says, “I might.”
On the radio I hear violins string out the first short, confident notes of “I Used to Rule the World” by Coldplay. The radio sends me all sorts of messages today. Just like motherhood.