Strawberry Shortcake

the little things that go wrong, are what connect us…make us real to each other.

I am remembering a day, in my late teens:  I had invited some friends over and had told them I would make strawberry shortcake, to just come on over to the house, and hang out.  It didn’t seem that difficult, I had seen my mom do it and the recipe looked so easy.  I tossed the fresh strawberries with some sugar and got busy mixing and baking the shortcake.  I put it all together and the moment came to assemble dessert; I handed out dishes and forks, anticipating nothing but delight, mmmm’s, lipsmacking.

Instead, what I heard were strange sounds, coughs, throats clearing, and eventually the giggles.

It, the shortcake, was awful! I had taken a bite by this time and sure enough, it was horrible and resembled something more akin to sawdust cakes than anything.

I was embarrassed, but these people, my friends were so close, so safe, that it was o.k. to be the epicenter of their laughter and teasing.  I figured out what I had done wrong, but much too late; so instead we ditched the cake and dove into the strawberries and whip cream and immersed ourselves in conversation.  And, yes they kept laughing at me.

The best part of the shortcake however, is that it lives on [and given its consistency, it probably could], to this day; nearly 30 years later. I don’t see those friends often enough, we of course all live in a variety of places – physically, mentally, stages of life, etc.  But it takes only the mere mention of the strawberry shortcake in an email, phone conversation,  or in the event we get to visit in person, a conversation, that sends us directly to nothing less than a fit of giggles. And a knowing.

If the shortcake had turned out perfectly, we would have never noticed, we would have mmm-ed and hmmm-ed, and smiled and licked our forks and plates and enjoyed the moment. But it would have been just that, only a moment, eclipsed by something else that might have seemed funny, but would likely – and quickly – fade in passing. Instead, because of my mistake, ineptitude, forgetfulness, or whatever, we got instead a memory that stays with us, and in a way, connects us always, with just one word.

With one of my friends I have known since childhood, all I have to do is, in a mocking tone, say shut up I can’t see‘ in a text, email, or message and we are goners, laughing until we pee or cry, or both.  It was  a day of misdirection and tardy arrivals, and while being silly in the backseat, laughing loudly at my friend’s inability to navigate the directions, my friend yelled at me, and the others, to shut up so he could see where he was going. The backseat drivers thought it was the dumbest thing we had heard, and it set us on a jag of that crazy, uncontrollable, practically crying, belly-aching, gasping laughter. You know the kind, it swells up, consumes you, recedes and then returns in its full force, over and over again.

If he had known his way, been more calm, or if we had been a little more, ahem, mature, we would not have that moment to cherish as part of our story, to have to be able to return to periodically, and reach out to hold a moment of our youth, our history, something that makes us, well, an us. It places us somewhere.

When my son was about to turn three, he fell down on his face a few days before his birthday and bumped himself up pretty good; resulting in a big giant fat lip, which of course ballooned just in time for his birthday, when the camera comes out in full force. My husband was irritated by the poor timing, lamenting how this would look,  and I remember just putting a hand on his arm and saying, ‘but these are the moments we remember. this will be ‘the year of the fat lip’ .

If things were perfect, I would not have the photos I love from that day, my little boy with the big lip.  That is what I remember from that birthday, not the fun but temporary cake, nor the toys or the party favors, but the face with the puffy lip and the reality that my little one was getting used to his own body and all that his growing pains brought.

When we allow ourselves to enter into these moments of awkwardness, apparent failure, stumbling, falling down, they can be, if we allow them, sources of what binds us to one another. These moments, if seen as a window to the truth of another, can help us realize that we are in fact all the same; imperfect. On the outside we might look different, but on the inside is it too much to imagine that we all might have some degree of self-doubt, perhaps a level of questioning around our worth, or possibly even our own worthiness; that maybe we all wonder how much we  should expose to another and how soon?  And when we see that in another, in a perfect, open moment where we know that we are not the only one who stumbles, falls down, or screws up the shortcake, is when we know we are not alone, when we realize it’s safe to pull back another corner of our quirky selves.

It is something to consider, the extent to which we go, to present perfect selves to the world around us, to our friends, our neighbors, with the intent of impressing, not burdening, or out doing.  It’s the mess of it all where we truly see each other.

When I see someone and their eyes do not crinkle with a little bit of  life’s twinkle around the edges, I feel that I must suck it in, both literally and figuratively – for how can I relax and show my true shortcake self to this person?  When we see someone express a little doubt, reveal that they are scared, that their life is not all picket fences, we can exhale and know that we are truly ok.

And at the end of the day, is it not something we all strive for, and seek? A place where we know we have a spot with our names etched, where we know we are loved, even when the shortcake tastes likes sawdust, and perhaps loved even a little bit more?

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30 thoughts on “Strawberry Shortcake

  1. Hi, thanks for this. It’s good to know that we’re all imperfect and have similar insecurities and feelings of self-doubt. Blogging seems to emphasize this for me – what and how often to share? how much to reveal of my true self? will these people like me? When someone is honest and shows some vulnerability, it encourages me to trust them and reciprocate, and then a deeper bond is formed with that person. I will try to remember to see the funny side of my mistakes more often – you’re right, these make great memories! 🙂

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    • I love your comment, and yes, blogging is such an unexpected gift those of us here have found; a place where our voices are heard and responded to and I think a place where we can test the waters with our vulnerability. I hope you do see the funny sides of your mistakes, they can become such unforgettable memories! I’m glad you stopped by here – you really added to the conversation 🙂

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  2. Oh, I loved this post Bon! That “secret language” we have with our friends, the one that’s based on shared jokes and experiences and so much history – is something I cherish, and you captured that feeling perfectly. xo.

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  3. This brought back so many memories for me, Bonnie. It’s amazing how those embarrassing moments can become a defining moment in a relationship. Whenever I’m feeling down all hubby has to say is, ‘do you want to dance?’ And I crack up laughing. On our first date we were dancing and I did a twirl under his arm. We thought we were so cool, until my hair got caught in his cufflink. We had to leave the dancefloor ‘connected’. 😀

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    • Dianne, that is a great story, I love that – you getting caught up in your hubby’s cufflinks! And yes, those moments, embarrassing and all, are such pivot points in our history with the right people who love us a little more from that point on!! 🙂

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  4. Your post brought funny memories to mind of carrot cake without carrots and being stopped by our local cop for disturbing the peace when all we were doing was SINGING with the car windows down, and, and, and…..thanks for taking me back, girl. Delightful post from my delightful CAL gal! 🙂

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      • “Sister” made the cake. First time hubby met her. It was AWFUL cake. And he was trying to be nice & polite and ate it when noone else would! 30 + yrs later….it’s like your shortcake! haha! As for the singing……we were all in vocal music and harmonizing! We were only disturbing “his” peace…when George (one of the dad’s) showed up at the police station the next day for a visit. ♫ ♪ ♫

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  5. Bonnie you’re so on the mark with this post, I loved it, thank you. I’ve been thinking about vulnerability a lot lately and perhaps the imperfect shows our vulnerability in a way and opens us up to a deeper connectedness. Being able to laugh in those moments is what living is all about I think. Great post!

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    • Lisa Marie,
      Thank you so much – and yes, vulnerability is definitely front and center when we open ourselves to the imperfect. I think when we can do this with the right people, we do find a deeper connections with one another. That is what I am hoping for at least!

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  6. As Mimi and Rhonda have already said, FABULOUS post, Bonnie, and oh so very true!! These *truly awkward* moments are the ones that stand out and continue to give us the biggest laughs years later. And you’re right, there is *nothing* better than a ‘laugh til ya can’t breathe, oh no, I think I’m going to wet my pants,’ giggle. Thanks for bringing a smile to my day, and a potent reminder of what’s truly important…. xoxo, L

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    • Lori, thank you so much, so much. And I am so glad I could remind you of the best kinds of laughter that we share with our people that we collect along the way, and our shared history. The awkward moments are unparalleled when it comes to being the ‘crumbs of where we have been’ with each other. xoxo

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  7. I third that emotion. Bonnie, this brings me back to my own memories of perfect imperfection and you are so right, these are the moments that are tattooed on my brain. For the present what you say is also true, it is in our shared flaws and self doubts we have found the common thread that is woven into this cloak of knowing, which we recognize when we see it. This recognition allows us to be everything we are with our kindred selves, shows us we are not alone, and opens our hearts to embrace the imperfections in others and in not a small way, in ourselves. It’s perfect.
    xoxo

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    • Rhonda…yes, It is perfectly imperfect isn’t it, when we can be our kindred selves? the cloak of knowing, what a stunning garment, yes? The grown up version, perhaps of the Traveling Pants of the younger sisterhood.

      I exhale at just knowing I can fully exhale…and to me that is more than perfect, it’s sublime. xoxo

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      • Agreed! It’s the best of all things. Being perfectly imperfect to those that know what it’s like to be the same. Yayaya Sisterhood of the Perfect Imperfection! Rah Rah BonBon…Again!

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  8. I keep saying this – but this is your best post yet!! (How do you keep doing that?? Besting yourself that is)…These moments of laughter that make the stomach hurt, memories that can evoke the same response except it is deeper with time. The malaprops, busted lips, revised plans that provide the binding to our book, the promise that there was always laughter, the surety that there was always love. You are a wonder BonBon – truly a wonder..xox

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    • Mims, I love how you say. “memories that can evoke the same response except it is deeper with time.” Yes, – exactly, in the way that altitude is not measured in a 1:1 ratio, how each 1000 ft is exponentially more stripped of oxygen; with each year, each time we reference those moments, their place in our story becomes more permanently etched.
      You my friend, are a wonder. xoxo

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