Courage at Twilight: Muffins with Gabe

I tended my great-nephew Gabe on a recent Saturday afternoon. He is all of three years old.  He lights up when he sees me because I love him and play with him.  I light up when I see him because he is adorable and smart and fun and sweet, and likes being with me.  On that Saturday we made my daughter Laura’s recipe for banana chocolate-chip muffins—the secret ingredient is sour cream, and these muffins are wonderfully moist and soft.  Gabe and I set up our work areas on the kitchen’s center island.  Given the attention span and dexterity of three-year-olds, I thought it best to give him his own bowls and measuring implements and ingredients.  While I mixed the real recipe, he mixed his own concoction.  The secret ingredient of Gabe’s muffins?  Colored sprinkles, lots of them.  And egg shells.  As I was breaking eggs into my batter, he asked for an egg for his.  He held the egg over his bowl, smashed it with his little hand, and dropped it into the bowl, shell and all.  Mom and Dad watched smiling from the family room.  I could hear a faint ringing echo as we mixed batter and talked, and I said to Mom, “Can you hear that ringing?”  It turned out to be a hearing aid sitting on a table, reacting to my voice.  But Gabe got off his stool and came over to hug my leg with a concerned look on his upturned face.  He teared up and asked about the monster making the noise.  When the hearing aid explanation meant nothing to him, I tried to reassure him by telling him confidently that there were no monsters in the house because I had eaten them all for breakfast—yum!—and that my favorite one was the chocolate monster—yum!  And not one monster was left to bother him.  He laughed, looked worried, and laughed again.  As Gabe left with my sister and some sprinkle-topped muffins, I told him to gobble up any monsters he found at his house for his breakfast, and he smiled and said okay.  Yesterday he left a crayon rainbow drawing on my pillow.

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