Reflections on motherhood at the Waffle Lady cafe


    I’ve always had mixed emotions about Mother’s Day. Is it supposed to be a relaxing day off from the duties of housekeeping and parenting?

    Or is it a day to celebrate the joys of motherhood, showering our mothers with gifts and sappy cards that prompt a tear or a sniffle?

    My mother had no need for relief from household chores, blessed, as she was, with a cook and a nanny, and devoid of culinary inclination or talent. Sometimes my older sister and I would bring her breakfast in bed, prepared by Cook and served with gleaming silver and china on her polished mahogany bed tray. Sometimes there was a single rose in a crystal bud vase, and usually cards we had made at school. Dressed in her white satin bed jacket, she graciously praised us for the effort.

    Dad would allow us to present the gold, three-tiered box of chocolates with the tassel on top that lifted the many separate lids. She always shared with us as long as we didn’t choose her favorite dark chocolate-covered marzipan.

    I remember my own first Mother’s Day because it coincided with our first anniversary and we were expecting our first child. My husband bought me yellow roses and took me out to dinner. I dressed in a conservative navy blue shift that showed off my legs and concealed my impending motherhood.

    In the years that followed, I was subjected to child-cooked breakfasts of soggy French toast, sometimes with a yellow rose on the tray. Later, it seemed we were always at a horse show on that Sunday, eating breakfast burritos from the roach coach. No flowers, no ceremony, but also no kitchen to clean up. During those years I always wondered what it would be like to be taken to a fancy restaurant for a Mother’s Day brunch. It never happened.

    This year, I went with my best friend to a jazz festival in San Clemente where he played the cornet all day Saturday with Dave Dolson’s Reunion Band.

    Dolson’s original band, Jazzin’ Babies, had lost a tuba player, a pianist and a trombone player over the last decade, gone to that great jam session in the sky. New charts and three younger players really jazzed up the band. Of course, most of the music had been written in the 1920s, and the audience was more grandmothers than new mothers. Still, they danced like they were young again. Jazz can do that for you.

    During the last set, I was sitting behind an elderly woman who kept nodding off. Sitting next to her was a gentleman who appeared to have suffered a stroke. He had only partial use of one arm and had difficulty getting up and negotiating his walker. Neither seemed to be enjoying the music much. The woman was bent over, resting her head on her knees for most of the set. I was worried about her, but when she sat up, she looked fine. Although her face was seriously wrinkled, his was smooth as a baby’s. Then it occurred to me that he might be her son. Good grief.

    Could this woman, who must have great, great grandchildren, still be mothering a disabled son? She had probably seen seven decades of Mother’s Days. This would not likely be the best.

    In the morning, we stopped for breakfast at the nearest cafe to our hotel. Waffle Lady looked promising in a homey, non-franchise way, freshly painted with gleaming windows overlooking a brick, gera-nium- strewn patio. The outdoor tables were all filled, but we were quickly shown to a tiny table (too small to spread out the Orange County Register) inside.

    The menu listed two dozen waffles, none of which seemed an improvement over plain Belgian. Our perky young waitress filled tall glasses with freshly squeezed orange juice, but seemed obsessed with the cost of large versus small. No free refills, please.

    At the next table was a frazzled mother, a 2-year-old in a highchair, another girl obviously under six, and dear old Dad with his face buried in the sports section. Mom gave Terrible Two everything on the table to keep her entertained while Dad finished his coffee. One by one, everything was flung to the floor: fork, spoon, plastic cream container, butter pats, berries, bits of waffle, paper napkins and sugar packets.

    Mom was getting frantic, sister helped pick up the jettisoned, Dad was oblivious. The coup de gras was a Styrofoam cup half full of milk, which split open on impact sending white waves splashing over the carpet. Mom said something sharp to Dad, who finally put down the paper and removed Two from the highchair. Whose idea was Mother’s Day brunch anyway?

    I got home in time to see my son, who brought me an antique elephant for my collection. The girls had bought me a gorgeous crabapple tree in full flower and four tulips. No sappy cards to prompt a tear this year.

    Later, I cut a yellow rose from my garden and placed it in Mom’s old crystal bud vase. I munched a leftover turkey sandwich and reflected on Mother’s Days past. Now, if only I had that chocolate- covered marzipan in the three-tiered gold box.