Some days you just know you are going to get winded. Your eyes adjust to the light, to what day it is, to what lies ahead and some days, you are prepared for it. On other days, like today, it comes as a complete surprise….. punched, wounded, winded and all before 9 am. When you are winded, it is so hard to stand up straight. So hard to pull those shoulders back. I feel like that now and so I write……….knowing this is what always helps me.
The kids all went back to school today. Not all of them wanted to and nor did I want them to but it’s all part of the gig…all something we need to accept, embrace and march forward (hopefully), with enthusiasm each term. I think we all love that break in routine, in fact, we cherish it. Our house is a little crazy. It’s a ‘good crazy’ but crazy just the same. One of my girls put her brakes on today. All very last minute and with no orange warning light for me beforehand – I was caught off guard. I was actually secretly waiting for another of my little ones to hold all limbs against the classroom door frame but no, she just cruised on in by herself (maybe they know there is only so far you can push a Mother!). I was trying to do the ‘good Mother’ thing and spend a moment in all three of their classrooms this morning. I don’t know who I was kidding – that never happens and I’m lucky if I even get to press my face up against the glass of the second class room as it closes in my face by some small child, doing his or her job, as ‘door monitor’ not yet appreciating that it kills a Mother if she hasn’t been fair……hasn’t kissed all three….hasn’t spent equal time with them all. “I’ll be first to yours tomorrow” I might mouth through the glass, hand on heart with 26 children looking at you like you are a freak. I don’t care – they might be the same one day. I was winded by a child desperately wanting to stay with me…..telling me she’ll start tomorrow and that she would spend one more day with me. I know a lot of you have been through it. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal. I know she will be okay and I know that right now she will be happily playing with her friends on the school yard whilst I am still finding it so hard to stand up straight, to get on with my work day, to slowly but surely, ease my shoulders back.
This Mother gig is THE best gig I have and will ever have but it is also, by far, the hardest. I remember looking lovingly at my Mum as a child and admiring her and thinking how lucky I was to have someone who loved me so much and who had the answers. My Mum knew exactly what to do at exactly the right moment and I now know that my girls think exactly the same of me. It still surprises me that this gig is all ‘on the job’ training and quite a lot of trial and error. It is all about trusting your gut, loving like you have never loved before and making sure they feel that love at every single moment – even if, at that moment, I am screaming at the top of my lungs. It’s about hugging them tightly, being so strong, holding back your tears and telling them they need to walk through that door. They need to be brave. I need to be brave. Half an hour later, I leave the class room. What a beautifully understanding teacher she has. I changed tact – I didn’t rush (not usually something that comes easily for me) and I held her hand until she was ready to let go. I was late for my 10 o’clock meeting and they had to take me as I was, in my jeans, not my business attire and with eyes that I am sure they knew had suffered a hard blow. I am sure they knew I had been winded.
Work will be messy today and already off to a very delayed start. I am lucky that I am free to work into the night tonight as I already plan to whip up and share their favourite dessert with them when they come home to give us an excuse to sit and catch up. To see them smiling……. I cannot wait for that.
Eton Mess is delightfully simple and celebrates the sweet strawberries that are in season once more. The meringues are hard on the exterior and soft and wonderful on the inside – it is not lost one me that the former is often how a child might see their parents but as they grow, they will discover that it was all a façade and there is a soft and wonderful middle ………just like a child’s.
Strawberry Eton Mess
6 large meringues (store bought or recipe to make your own is below)
1 ½ ups of lightly whipped cream
3 cups of strawberries or use a mix of strawberries and raspberries
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Half the strawberries or thickly slice any extra large ones. Put in a large bowl with the raspberries (if using) and coat with the sugar. Give a good mix by hand or spoon as you really do want the berries to break down / macerate. Cover & place in fridge to macerate for an hour.
Lightly whip your cream and store in the fridge.
To assemble, break the meringues into large pieces and then fold in the whipped cream. Gently fold in the chilled berries. It should just be rippled together rather than perfectly blended. Pile in to glasses or small bowls and serve.
You can make this up to an hour in advance but any more than that and your meringue will be soggy.
To make your own meringues:
3 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
Preheat oven to 120oC.
In a very clean & dry stainless stell or copper bowl, whisk your egg whites (I use electric beaters) until they hold soft peaks. Now add half od the sugar and whisk to blend well with the egg whites. Add the rest of your sugar and whisk until the mixture is glossy and holds stiff peaks.
Line a baking tray with baking paper. Dollop (or pipe) tablespoons of the meringue mixture on the baking trays. Place in the oven for 90 minutes and then remove from the oven and gently turn the meringues upside down to cook a further 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely. Meringues store very well in an airtight container and away from heat and moisture.