This Mother’s Day I’m thinking about my little sister. We were only born two years apart, but in my mind she will always be somewhere between 5 and 15 years old. When I look at her, it’s a different story. I’m in awe of the woman my sister has grown up to be. At first glance, a true beauty, with those innocent blue eyes and pearly white skin. Beyond the surface I can see a surprising strength and determination. She is the newest mother in our family. Last June, my one and only sister gave birth to a beautiful boy, and I still can’t believe she’s a mother. I can’t believe I’m an aunt. I can’t believe our mother is a grandmother and our grandmother is a great grandmother. Though I live 800 miles from my sister, I have felt the repercussions of her becoming a mother like aftershocks from an earthquake.
I didn’t see it coming- how this new tiny member of our family would change my life and the way I see the world. I wasn’t there for the birth. My sister wanted me to wait so we could have a special visit and be together during that quiet time when the rest of the family had returned home. The day she went into labor it struck me- fear, anxiety, the importance of the moment. Women have babies all the time, and we forget what a big deal that is- what a MIRACLE it is to bring a life into this world. Labor and delivery don’t always go well. Some women, and some babies, don’t make it through alive. I cried the whole day, waiting. It may sound melodramatic, but when it’s your sister, the fragile nature of life hits you like a ton of bricks.
The phone rang, it was our mom, “She did great, Jess! She was so brave. Everything is fine. He is beautiful and healthy.” I could breathe again. For the first time in my life I experienced the guttural pain that comes when your sister is suffering. The sister who tattled on you when you were kids, who couldn’t keep a secret… who you may have taken for granted. Before that day, I would have described my sister as beautiful, sensitive, kind, and god-loving, but not brave. The day she gave birth to her son, I saw what had always been there: her bravery.
Over the past year I’ve watched from afar as my sister figures out how to be a mother. We talk several times a week, and our friendship is more solid than ever. My heart is softened by the worries she shares about being a good mom. I reassure her and give her advice when she asks for it. We talk about cooking baby food from scratch and she sends me pictures of the funny faces he makes. Many miles separate us, but my love for him is surprisingly intense. It feels good to be an aunt, makes me want to be a better person. I always thought it sounded so cliché, but I guess that’s the power of love. This little guy brought something into my life that I never expected. He brought me grace.
Each week I contribute a column to the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website, and today I’ve baked a recipe for Rhubarb Clafoutis from the River Cottage Every Day cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Clafoutis is a classic French dessert that’s traditionally made with cherries. It’s simply a baked pancake. In this case, the rhubarb is roasted for a few minutes to tenderize it, then a quick batter of eggs, flour, milk, and sugar is whisked together and poured over the fruit in the skillet. After half an hour in the oven, the clafoutis is puffed and golden. Serve Rhubarb Clafoutis for dessert with a spoonful of whipped cream, as part of a Mother’s Day brunch, or enjoy it during tea time with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
Rhubarb Clafoutis from River Cottage Every Day
- 1 pound rhubarb
- A little ground cinnamon
- Grated zest of 1/2 orange and the juice of the whole fruit
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- A pinch of sea salt
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup whole milk
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Recipe found on Serious Eats.