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Family Matters: Birthdays and Bombs

In our home, birthday mornings begin early with stacks of pancakes and presents piled on our kitchen table. Our son Will’s five-year-old birthday morning began this way — September 11, 2001.

It was still early when the phone rang, and I remember asking Will to come answer it, thinking his grandparents were calling to wish him a happy birthday. A good friend was on the other end, and she said, “I know you don’t watch much TV, but you need to turn it on. Right now.”

And that was that.

My husband and I shielded Will and his younger brother from the day’s horrific events. I tried hard to appear calm, but inside I was freaking out. My mothering instincts went into overdrive, and I kept the boys home from preschool in case something else horrible was coming our way. I’m not sure what I could have done to protect them, but I wanted them under my wings.

Do you know how surreal it was to spend that day on a golf course with two giggly toddlers, hitting golf balls, doing somersaults, and drinking lemonade, while continually checking the sky? God knows what I expected to see.

What I did see that day — what the whole world saw — was widespread destruction and death. The death of many innocent people. The death of feeling safe on our own soil. And the death of beliefs we assumed were sacred and, therefore, untouchable.

It’s impossible for us to ever again feel as free now as we did before September 11. The same feeling happens when you lose someone you love; life’s rose-colored glasses shatter, and your life becomes marked in terms of that one single event. Pre-divorce. Post-cancer. And now, post-9/11.

But we don’t need those glasses anymore to see what we need to see. In fact, we might even see better. Until 9/11, the values we held close to our hearts were just part of an assumption of a way of life. You’re not supposed to wake up in America and wonder if a bomb is going to drop in your backyard.

Everything has shifted, and yet nothing has changed.

Many birthdays have thankfully passed since that day, and we still sit at our table to open presents and eat pancakes. We laugh, love and give thanks for the time we have…today.

Birthday Blueberry Pancakes

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups Food Club buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup fresh blueberries (or other berry, chocolate chips, nuts)
Maple syrup, as desired

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until frothy. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Stir just until the batter is smooth, being careful not to overmix.

Heat an electric griddle or skillet to medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each regular-sized pancake. Scatter 1 tablespoon of blueberries or other mix-in over each pancake. Cook until the top is bubbly and the batter is set, about 90 seconds. Carefully flip pancakes with a spatula and cook 2-3 minutes more. Continue with remaining batter. (Hint: To keep pancakes warm while cooking, heat your oven to 200°F and place cooked pancakes on a baking sheet in the oven, tented with foil.)

Serve with butter and warmed maple syrup. Makes enough for 4 hungry people.

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