Don’t Make a Cake for Your Mother?

My "Don't Fear the Mixer" Potholder for the Mother's Day show on May 12th

When I was in second grade we had a special assembly.  There was a fireman on the stage in the auditorium and I imagine he was  giving us safety tips.  But, the only thing I remember is his story about the mixer.

A girl came home after school and decided to surprise her mother, who was at work, by making a cake.  The girl didn’t know that the cake mixer was damaged and when she plugged it in and started to beat the batter she was electrocuted and died.   As a kid I wasn’t sure what the lesson was.  Never make a cake without asking your mother first?  If you use an electric mixer you can die?   Don’t make a cake for your mother?  What ever the lesson, what I took from it, was that every time I’ve used a mixer I would think of that story.  At first the fear of death was great, but after baking hundreds of cakes and cookies over my life time and not  dying,  the fear became less powerful.    So that  eventually, even though I still thought of the story, I no longer believed I would die from using a cake mixer.

This weekend, Jon and I went on a two day silent meditation.  I used to imaging a silent meditation as being enveloped  in peace for 2 days, but it’s not like that.   It’s more like dredging the Hudson River down stream from General Electric.  All those demons that have been hiding out since childhood start showing up.

The question is what to do with them when they arrive.  I tried several different techniques.  First I treated them like ghosts and asked them what they wanted.  They didn’t have an answer, the demons were actually confused by the question and left me alone for the rest of that sitting.  When they came back at the next sitting I had a vision, of a person sized bird throwing stars to my demons and floating them up  to space expanding the universe.  The last time they came, I welcomed them in for tea, then blessed them and let them go.

I don’t know if the demons every really go away, but like my fear of the mixer,  they do seem to have less power the more I acknowledge them and let them go on their way.   And even if they hang around, they’re not all that’s there.  After all, every time I faced my fear of the mixer, I got a cake out of it.


19 thoughts on “Don’t Make a Cake for Your Mother?

  1. You’ve given me a lot to think about with these wonderful insights, Maria. I do love the mixer musings. Adults did have a way of sometimes mixing it wrong, didn’t they? Thanks always for sharing your delightful stories and thoughts. Have some cake.

  2. Glad your retreat went well for you. This piece is awesome. But I must say I would carry that scary idea in my psyche, instilled by that ignorant,machismo fireman for years and years if I’d heard that as a child.
    I’ll never forget a movie I saw about twenty-five yrs. ago called “The Believers” with Martin Sheen I think. It opened with wifey coming down in the am and turning on the coffee maker and getting electrocuted! I still think of this even now! I carry around certain coffee maker phobias(better left unsaid) still today! 🙂

  3. Maria, you’ve stumbled upon a powerful practice, based in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, called “Feeding Your Demons” which is the title of a book outlining a Westernized/modernized version of the practice. It involves exactly what you did spontaneously; asking your demons what they want and feeding them rather than fighting them, which results in learning from and making peace with them. And another lovely detail is that the practice was first developed by a woman, early in the period when Buddhism came into Tibet. Check out the book; it’s by Lama Tsultrim Allione, an American woman teacher of Tibetan Buddhism who has a wonderful retreat center, Tara Mandala, in Colorado.
    You are doing some amazing work in your life and psyche these days; it’s an inspiration reading what you choose to share about it!

  4. My friend who is a native american once told me that she smudges her house in the morning with sage. I don’t know if you have ever tried that yourself to dispel negative energies.

  5. Maria – I love this post! I had one of those weeks where I had to face a big deep fear and now that it’s over, I’m glad that I was present for all of it. So, from now on, as those situations come up – and they will for sure – I’m going to tell myself that when I face my fear of the mixer, I’ll get a cake out of it. Thanks!

  6. We’ll have to expand our kitchen if I purchase anymore potholders,but I do have to say…I love this one! Not only did it make me laugh out loud (my first impression from the photo was “fear of baking”), but I also appreciated the backstory – my father was a fireman, so I, too, have been trained to cast a suspicious eye on appliances that need to be plugged in!

    Kathleen M

    P.S. Fabulous news about the “New Bedlam Farm”…you & Jon have already made such a difference in Rocky’s life (and he in yours) – how wonderful that the three of you should embark on this new chapter together!

  7. Beautiful, Maria.

    Have done many, many silent retreats over the past two decades. Old patterns have repeated, fears have arisen, fears have retreated. It takes a lot of guts to attend retreat! Not for the feint-hearted.

    What in the world was that man thinking when he told the mixer story to children? I can see warning kids about electricity and water…. Just love your last line. Yes, face fears, receive something sweet!

  8. It’s a miracle that any children grow up unafraid to cross an empty street at high noon after all the things well-meaning adults plant in their little heads. Don’t get me started on the nuns at parochial school . . .

  9. Such a great story from your childhood. Don’t you wonder what that fireman would say if he knew how that story would affect a child? What was he thinking? I’m pretty sure our demons don’t ever disappear completely. They lurk around waiting for us to open the door for them to come in and make themselves at home again. Vigilance is what it takes to keep them at bay, and some days, it’s easier than others. (speaking only for myself here)

  10. Will that potholder be for sale? My mom, who died recently, was a huge collector of mixers. She had about 400 of them that my dad and I are left trying to figure out what to do with them. She would have laughed at that potholder and loved your story about them. And hearing her laugh was one of my favorite things. She never feared the mixer!

    1. I’m selling it at the Mothers Day show Carrie, but I’ll email you sounds to me like it may belong to you. That is an impressive collection your mother had.

  11. This little girl did not appear to have demons.Instead, she took things quite literally. When I was teaching I had a third grade student who decided to make a cake for the class in honor of another student who was moving away. Her mother was not going to be home to help, but she asked her older sons to supervise. For some reason they were not in the kitchen when their sister decided it was time to cook.
    The little baker used a cakemix and was quite successful in the baking process. When the mother came home, the older sons said that it would be a good idea not to eat the cake. Their sister was quite tired because she followed the direction and turned the batter something like thirty strokes, using “her hands”because the directions gave her two choices, “by hand” or with a mixer. She was what one would call a literal reader. Your wonderful story brought back this memory that is probably thirty years old. Thank you. No demons for this child, just a generous and thoughtful heart—-like yours!

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