This morning, Katie asked me to make pancakes.
As I got out the bowl, the pan, and the spatula, the kids hovered around me like moths. “Can I help you stir, Mom?” “Let’s add nuts this time!” “Can I flip them over, please? I promise I’ll be careful!” One reason pancakes are so popular around here is the team effort that goes into making them. Caleb dragged the step stool from its hiding place next to the refrigerator and in a moment he and Katie were both vying for position on the top step, the better to see into the magic bowl.
I’m not going to tell you that I make my pancakes from scratch. Pancake mix is cheap, and easy to whip into a nearly instant stack of fluffy flapjacks. Just add water. Besides, I have to make two batches–one gluten-free, casein-free batch for Katie, and one regular batch for Caleb and Paul. Starting from scratch would just take too long. But I do like to add things to the batter. An egg, for protein. Nuts, for texture. Sugar and cinnamon, just because it tastes better that way. Katie is my little kitchen experimenter, and she is always suggesting new additions. “Chocolate chips, Mom? That would be yummy.” “How about some coconut?” I’ve had to veto some of her wilder suggestions, like gummi bears and marshmallows, but I usually try to accommodate a special request or two. We dump it all in a big mixing bowl and take turns stirring it until every last lump of powdery pancake mix is blended in.
Then comes the fun part.
Dribbling pancake batter off of a spoon and onto a hot griddle in the exact shape of a bat is a lot harder than it sounds. Fortunately, Katie and Caleb have well-honed imaginations, and can easily see horses, snakes, and porcupines where most objective observers might conclude that the chef simply suffered a small seizure while pouring the batter. I also do letters, numbers, and various punctuation marks. “Hey, Mom, make a C, for Caleb!” “Will you make mine say ‘#1’?” I honor nearly any request, as long as I know what it is (although I draw the line at characters from video games.)
The hot pancakes come off the griddle a beautiful golden brown (well, after I burn the first batch, which I always do.) The kids enjoy drizzling the syrup themselves, making big, swirling loops across the tops of the hot cakes with it and letting it pool in honey-colored puddles underneath.
The first silence of the morning settles over the kitchen as everybody falls upon the food, and, in a flash, the pancakes are gone. The dishes are whisked away to the dishwasher, the counter is wiped down, and breakfast is over. Everyone scampers off to meet the day with full bellies. Invariably, that night, whether Katie or Caleb says the prayer, a “thank you for pancakes” finds its way in somewhere between the Dear God and the Amen.
Pancakes are a breakfast for Saturdays, or vacation days, days when the harried pace of the usual weekly routine gives way to the delicious languor of hour upon unscheduled hour. To my kids, pancakes say that I love them, and love spending time with them. They say that I value their contribution, and that they are worthwhile to me. Such a little thing, really, but a big thing, too. I can see it in the glow of their eyes.
I hope I never get too busy to make Saturday morning pancakes.