The Right Ingredients

The Right Ingredients

When I was a little girl, I assisted my mother with baking my birthday cake every year.   Being the creative person that she was, my mother always allowed me to select the type of cake and the decorations I wanted to go onto my cake.  My mother taught me how to measure every ingredient and explained to me how the ingredients make the personality of the cake.   After mixing the cake ingredients, we placed the mixture into three round nine inch cake pans, followed by placing them into the oven for baking.  I always peeked through the glass door of the oven to watch the cake rise and bask in the sweet aroma of the baking cakes flowing throughout the house.  Eventually the timer rang and I ran to let my mother know that it was time for the cake to be removed from the oven.  After taking the cake out of the oven we waited for it to cool before we began decorating it with rich, smooth, butter icing.

Oftentimes, while waiting for the cake to cool, my mother knelt down, held my hands, and told me stories about when she was a child and how she did certain chores afterschool.  I liked the part of the story when her parents would give her a reward for the chores she did throughout the week. She also told about how when she was seven years old she asked her parents for a dog , but it wasn’t until two Christmases later that she finally saw a puppy under the Christmas tree.  I think that was the beginning of my realization that patience comes in all situations.  Baking my birthday cakes with my mother was so much fun, but for my mother it was always a teachable moment.

As I grew to my teen years, my family and I took trips during the summer. On one particular trip we sat in the terminal waiting to board the plane.   There was so much activity around the newspaper and magazine stands; people were very busy.  There was even a man who was entertaining everyone by playing beautiful songs from his violin.  Most people in the terminal were very friendly, but an incident occurred when a customer thought his luggage was lost.  He was so upset that his language became    extremely foul at the airline agent.  The airline worked hard to retrieve the angry customer’s luggage, but no matter what they did, the customer continued to complain. After about thirty minutes of trying to calm and offer the customer a solution to the missing luggage, they eventually discovered that the luggage was mistakenly picked up by another passenger, and that the customer was not in the right baggage claim area.   When all was resolved, the customer looked embarrassed by his earlier display of anger and frustration.  My mother then turned to my siblings and me and said, “Sometimes, when you are not given the right ingredients in your birthday cake as a child, you will demonstrate a behavior like the customer who lost their self-control over a lost suitcase that was not lost but accidentally picked up by another customer.”

When we finally got settled on the plane, I began to reflect back on my life.  I thought about the ingredients my mother and I used to put into my birthday cakes, the stories about the chores my mother did after school, the story about the long-awaited Christmas puppy, and now about the unruly customer in the airport.   I realized that had the customer listened more and spoke less, his outcome could have been more positive, but instead lots of on-lookers walked away with their opinions of that customer because of his behavior.

I believe that what we are taught at an early age can sometimes be demonstrated in the person that we become in the future.  I recall a childhood friend who had parents that never used the word “no.” Whatever she wanted, it was always “yes.”  In public, when she didn’t get what she wanted, she fell on the floor screaming so loud that everyone stopped to see what was going on.  Embarrassed by the spectators, her mother gave in and rewarded her. When my friend got older and had children of her own, they gave her the same treatment that she gave her mother.

So here I am as an adult. Life has taught me many valuable lessons, but the one that always seems to ring true is “first impressions are not only lasting, but they can also be the last impressions.” These days, more and more it seems like you only get one opportunity to get it right.  And as my mother used to say, the ingredients of a cake can determine the personality of a cake, the same can be said about people. “Whatever ingredients are put into a person’s life at a young age can make up the personality of who they become when they are grown.”

–  Janie Bundrant, 1st  Place in Essay