I make a tres leches cake for our daughter's birthday. The tres leches process requires baking the actual cake, and when it comes out of the oven, dousing it with a concoction of three milks: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream.
When I take the cake from the oven, the middle has sunk. It looks like a rectangular swimming pool with a ledge. As expected, the three milks pool in the center of the cake. Though I've never made a tres leches, I don't think this is how the cake is supposed to turn out. The edges will be dry if I don't fix this. I need to take off the ledge, so the milk will settle evenly and make the entire cake moist and sweet. There is a bonus to slicing off the ledge--I sample the cake, and it is delicious. I finish three sides before I acknowledge my overindulgence and realize I should share (with Tony)--both the deliciousness and the blame--for now, the cake looks battered and hacked at. My daughters will have a fit if they see it as is. Fortunately, Tony is complicit, and he saws gently away at the last remaining side. I now have a partner in my cake hacking crime.
When I look at the butchered cake, I panic and say, "You have to whip the cream. Now!"
"Why?" he asks.
"To hide the damage to the cake."
He grimaces at the cake and understands completely. However, he thinks he can whip the cream now and spread it later, or after church. I protest because I'm afraid one of the girls will show up first and see the incriminating evidence.
I hurry upstairs to shower and dress; we reunite in the car. My first question is, "Did you spread the whipping cream and did it hide the damage?"
"So the girls can't see we hacked off the top of the cake?"
"They won't suspect at all."
We are in the midst of the great generation role reversal marked by the troublesome fact that we now fear getting in trouble with our children. We fear their retribution and judgement. Everything we ever preached and espoused, they now hold us to--with a vengeance. It comes at a time when we have loosened up over all those rules we had to implement and keep, in order to run a smoothe household and to raise decent children.
We paid the price, it's time to live it up.
1. We want ice cream for dinner?--have it.
2. Floor needs to be swept after dinner--do it tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow.
3. No time to unpack? Take out the laundry and leave it for the next trip.
4. Dinnertime at 6:00 sharp? Wait until after the bike ride or until it's too dark to work in the garden.
The great generation role reversal is also a consequence of aging: forgetfulness.
While a guest at my daughter's home, not once but twice, I am reprimanded for leaving the screen door open.
By far, the worst moment came when in one split second of panic, I became the child lying to her mother.
While passing through the garage, I spied in the garbage pile the most fabulous pair of 90s boots with gargantuan platform heels. These boots would make a 70s Halloween costume complete, I thought, already picturing the pants, the hat and wig that would complement the boots superbly. I slipped my foot into the boot to see if it fit.
Later, I asked my daughter, "Are those fabulous boots in the trash pile?" I asked, "because if they are I'd love to take them home."
"Yes, they are. I was going to fix them, but I found mouse droppings in them, so now I'm just going to toss them." I saw her mind shift from relaxed to possible horror and then she asked in a highly accusatory tone, "You didn't try them on did you?"
Without even thinking, just like I would gasp for air if my life was in danger from suffocation, I answered "NO!" Then I slinked over to the kitchen sink, hoping she wouldn't see me and washed the bottom of my foot.
Because I've glimpsed the future, and I'm not so sure it's kind, I've decided to back off on the role reversal with my own mother. For years, my sisters and I have bugged her to get more exercise. For years I've chided her for eating canned fruit for breakfast. Today is officially Mother Liberation Day!
Mom, do what you want--you've earned it, you deserve it. You kept the rules long enough. Now break them...