Holding onto the Story

Two years ago, I wrote an essay about my mother's waffle iron and submitted it to the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. The essay won first place and lived on the Washington-Centerville Library website until I posted it here earlier today so that I could keep it close. It's a short essay but here is the relevant part for today's post:

The waffle iron sits in my pantry now and I use it regularly to make waffles for my own children. The waffles turn out every time and I have yet to burn down the house. Each time I stand there waiting for the waffles to brown, I wonder why she kept it and the only answer I can come up with is that she wanted to be the kind of mother who made waffles for her kids.

My mother gave me the waffle iron in July of 2008, right before she died, and I have been making waffles with it ever since. As I typed out that date, I realized that it has been almost 10 years since she died which means almost 10 years worth of waffles. It seems impossible that it's been that long.


The weekend before last, Zeca and I were alone for a couple of days - Luisa was traveling for work and Miguel was in Denver touring colleges - and I decided to make waffles because it had been awhile. I plugged it in and let it warm up while I made the batter and when the ancient indicator glowed red, I poured the batter in and waited. When I opened it again to take the waffle out, I noticed the sides of the waffle had browned but the middle had not risen or browned at all. I remembered the last time I made them, the centers had been a tiny bit lighter but I hadn't thought anything about it at the time. I thought maybe the iron just hadn't warmed up completely, so, I let it sit for a bit longer and tried again but the middle was still the same. I made an entire batch of waffles and the centers never rose or browned. 

I called my daughter for breakfast and pointed out the issue with the waffles and said what I had been furiously trying to deny every time I poured in a fresh cup of batter, "I think Nana's waffle iron is dying." My daughter looked at the waffles and shook here head, "These are just fine. So what if they're not brown; they're good enough." I knew she was bargaining. I pointed out that while they appeared to be cooked, they had not risen because they hadn't had proper heat and she shrugged, "I'm sure they taste great." 

She ate extra waffles that day and said they were "SO GOOD!" and thanked me for a great breakfast before bounding out of the kitchen and onto the next thing. Meanwhile, I stood in the kitchen and stared at the pile of anemic waffles and knew in my heart that it was time to let the waffle iron go. 

I made waffles for 10 years on a waffle iron my mother had owned for 30. I believe it served us well and my mother - one of the most practical people I've ever known - would have loved that I used it until it simply gave out. I'm guessing that's what she hoped for when she gave it to me. Sometimes, the people we love give us something that lasts forever. In this case, it's the story.