Courage at Twilight: Lemon Cupcakes with Kids

Two loaves of bread were rising—different recipes—and the oven was preheating to 425. My son Brian had brought his family for a weekend visit; he and Avery are both delightful adults.  And of course, my granddaughter Lila is one of the great joys of my advancing life.  Gabe (age 3) had come over to play with Lila (age 2) for a couple of hours.  After playing Legos and blocks and hide-and-seek for a while, he importuned, “Can we bake?”  I already had two bakes going, and did not think I could handle a third.  But Gabe asked so sweetly and sincerely that I could not say no.  “Okay,” I said seriously, “but we can’t make two cupcake recipes—we can’t make real cupcakes from my recipe book and your cupcakes from your imagination.  If we’re going to bake cupcakes, we’re going to follow the recipe.”  Sensing my resolve, he nodded his consent.  He and Lila sat on bar stools at the kitchen island.  They each measured out and poured into the bowl the various ingredients, with my hands guiding theirs: flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, milk, melted butter, and eggs—Gabe cracked the eggs expertly, with not a speck of shell escaping.  He did politely insist on one imagination ingredient, which actually mixed in perfectly: colored confectionary sprinkles.  Gabe and I held the mixer together, but Lila declined, not liking loud machines like vacuum cleaners and blenders and electric beaters.  But they wanted to be, and were, involved in every step, including licking the beaters and spoons.  Mom and Dad looked on in amusement and adoration.  After the children placed the cupcake liners into the tin cups, we carefully dolloped the batter into the liners and slipped the tray into 350 degrees.  While the cupcakes baked, we mixed the icing, made from a lot of powdered sugar, a little milk, and the juice of one lemon.  How proud the children were of their iced cupcakes, excitedly licking the tangy icing off the multi-color cakes before biting in.  Mom and Dad and I enjoyed our cupcake, too.  An hour prior, I had thought I did not have the energy or patience to bake cupcakes with two little children while simultaneously baking break.  With the cupcakes done and decorated, and devoured, I realized that the increased tenderness I felt for them, and my lifted happy spirits, would have gone tragically unexperienced had I demurred.  As it is, I will always remember baking lemon cupcakes with Lila and Gabe, and I hope they will remember baking lemon cupcakes with me.

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