Last Sunday while taking out my trash I ran into Joyce, my neighbor from down the hall. Joyce is a psychiatrist, late 50’s, single, a bird-watching enthusiast and one of those women blessed with the most optimistic of dispositions. It could be pouring with rain for the fifth day in a row and there she is, setting out to walk her tiny dog in a monsoon with a smile and a, “It’s good for the flowers!”
You know that thing when you are feeling sad and vulnerable, but don’t want to feel sad and vulnerable and then someone sweetly says something that taps into the thing that is making you feel sad and vulnerable? It just knocks you over. That’s what almost happened with Joyce in the hallway.
“Hi Joyce,” I said with my hand on my apartment door about to re-enter.
“Happy Auntie’s Day!” she cheered.
Joyce knows about Nieces One and Two and has a grown one of her own. “We’re important women to them too,” she continued.
I almost burst into tears.
Much like my hesitation over bringing up the “M” word in relation to Kate marrying Will, I’ve also steered clear of the “K” word. I’ve never talked about not having kids for fear of coming off as a defensive child-hater or a depressed, barren spinster. Neither of which I am. Really. But children were very much on my mind this Mother’s Day. When you are single, and the only children in your life are those who belong to others, confronting a holiday that says, in the words of my dear friend Wendy, “Look what YOU don’t have!” kind of stinks.
Luckily I held it together and we discussed her grown niece and what she was up to and other pleasantries that helped me push my swelling feelings back where they belong, repressed into the deepest recesses of my soul.
I know that I’m fortunate because there are plenty of people who, whether or not they have children, don’t have mothers. To them I say, “I am so sorry.” That really stinks too. But my mother basically laughs when I say “Happy Mother’s Day!” because she thinks the whole idea is so silly. I then wind up in a weird no-man’s-land where I am denied both celebrating her and being celebrated myself.
The thing is I don’t usually have to confront Mother’s Day in this way. Often I visit my parents’ at their weekend house in an effort to get a jump on the summer sun, one of my favorite springtime activities. So, even if I’m not taking my mother to brunch at the country club we don’t belong to I am spending the day with her. And on occasion my sister has brought the nieces and the day just passes as chaotic, family fun. But this year was different. I had tickets to see Jerusalem on Friday night (excellent by the way) and spent a really lovely evening with friends on Saturday going to the movies and yakking way too late over steaming bowls of mussels. But there was an undercurrent of this looming thing on Sunday that I knew was going to make me crabby.
The dread had started after several friends over the course of the days leading up to the weekend asked me what my Mother’s Day plans were. “Um, I’m childless and have no plans!” I wanted to snap. But then I realized they assumed I’d be with my mom and were just making conversation. Hmmn, guess I was feeling sensitive and defensive, a most unattractive duo.
So how to deal with the day after Joyce almost unwittingly brought me to tears? When in doubt, exercise. Endorphins are always good for a few hours of cheer and running in the sunny park did the trick, despite the slow moving tourists who don’t seem to understand that walking four abreast around the reservoir makes any runner want to push them onto the ground and run over them. (I guess you can add “hostile” to “sensitive” and “defensive.”) After my usual breakfast I met up with my Daisy, one of my closest friends for the past 30 years, for a stroll and a few hours of gossip and laughs under the shade of Barclay’s Grove at Lincoln Center. I think spending time with someone who really knows you is essential when one is feeling a little glum. Being honest about the day, and life in general, instantly lifted my spirits—I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had to fake it with an acquaintance. But by admitting my crabitude I was able to identify it, accept it and move on.
When Erica, the teenage daughter of my friend Nancy, recently asked me for a stress-relieving recipe to help her get over the pressure of picking courses and testing for her junior year in high school, I recommended dried cherry toffee chocolate-chunk cookies. As far as I’m concerned baking anything relieves stress but these cookies are an all-time favorite. Actually, I used to take them to the hospital to my friends who were brand-new mothers. The recipe makes a ton and they are perfect to have on hand for all the many people who think it is their place to stop by mere hours after a woman has given birth. I decided to take my own advice and end my child-free Mother’s Day by making a batch of these chewy, tart, sweet, and salty crowd pleasers. And I started thinking about my weekend—a great play, evenings and afternoons with lots of friends—and all the children that are in my life who, whether or not they are mine, love me as much as I love them. And I felt very lucky.
And on Monday I spent the afternoon with my mother and felt even luckier.
Crabby Mother's Day Toffee Dried Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Adapted from marthastewart.com
Printer Friendly Version
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup dried cherries (if you aren't a fan, substitute dried cranberries or omit completely--but the tart chewiness adds a lot)
4 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or chocolate chips
1 cup Heath Bar or Skor bits (the bags are usually sold with the chocolate chips. If you can't find them, chop up a few candy bars)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice during mixing.
Add the egg; mix on high speed to combine. Add the vanilla; mix to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add flour mixture to egg mixture, and mix on low speed until well combined. Add the oats, cherries, chocolate, and toffee pieces; mix to combine after each addition.
Using two teaspoon scooper or 2 teaspoons, drop dough onto a lined baking sheet. Repeat, spacing 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container up to 2 days.
Yield: 6 dozen cookies