He Won’t Have a Pancake this Year

Connor pancake (1)

He Won’t Have a Pancake This Year by Robynn

Yesterday my sixteen-year-old daughter was trying to teach me how to upload the pictures on my phone to the cloud. It’s a frightening prospect, one I’ve resisted, for several months now. I don’t want anything happening to those pictures. What if they never make it to the cloud? What if there’s a sudden downpour and they’re lost, washed away, forever?

As she was showing me the new cataloging potential Google has kindly (and freakily!) put in place to organize all my pictures, I happened to see pictures of last year’s pancakes. And before I could reason with myself, before I could dispel the rising grief with an attempt at humour, before I could distract myself with a sip of tea, before I knew it, I was in tears.

Every year, since the kids were tiny, on the first day of school, I make pancakes.

These aren’t any ordinary pancakes. The recipe is my dad’s old recipe that he perfected at Utopia House on the backside of Murree Hills in far away Pakistan. Dad would measure and mix cautiously the ingredients into a coloured Tupperware bowl. He’d raise the wick slightly in the kerosene stove, wait the appropriate time and then gently light it while holding his breath and praying for success. Once the flame was burning blue and clear, the ancient cast iron griddle inherited from Auntie Sadie Philbrick (or was it Auntie Helen Gamble?) would be wiped off and placed on top of the enamel stove. When the griddle was hot the batter was portioned out…sizzling pancake batter would slowly rise up and bubble before dad would turn the hotcakes. There was always homemade syrup and Nurpur butter. Usually there were fresh peaches or apricots cut up. Often there would be freshly made black raspberry jam. Occasionally dad would make a shape with the batter. He’d cover the design with more pancake and our round cakes would be embossed with faces, or animals or figurines.

Those were the pancakes I wanted my children to grow up on. Those pancakes became a part of their childhood, as they’d been a part of mine.

On the first day of school I always wake up a little earlier. Using dad’s recipe I carefully blend the dry ingredients before adding the milk and the eggs, the oil and the vanilla. I pour out the pancake batter on the modern electric griddle, shaping for them the number representing the grade they are about to start. When Connor was starting grade six his pancake was a “6”; Adelaide had a “4” that year; and Bronzi a “1”. It’s what we’ve always done.

I saw last year’s pancake photos and I started to cry. Connor won’t have a pancake this year. He just graduated from high school and he starts at University in the Fall. He won’t be here on the morning I make Adelaide an “11” and Bronzi an “8”. I walked into the kitchen and there he was. “You okay mom?” he asked. “You won’t have a pancake this year,” the tears started up again. With a crooked and caring smile he came over and hugged me. He let me cry a little.

Grief bubbles up in odd places—I didn’t quite expect it to rise up to the cloud in a picture of a pancake. I really had no idea letting Connor go would be so hard. I’m afraid no amount of syrup is going to sweeten his departure.

Dad’s Original Pakistan Pancake Recipe

(He’s since changed it to include whole wheat flour and flax seed and more baking powder and who knows what all! ….but this is the original…this is the one I’m keeping near the griddle!)

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of salt

2 cups milk

2 eggs beaten

1/3 cup oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients separately. Gently add wet to the dry and stir carefully. Avoid over mixing. Ladle batter onto a hot griddle. Make shapes! When pancakes begin to bubble flip them. Serve hot with ice cream and sliced fruit, or maple syrup, or fruit syrup, or peanut butter or cheez whiz or nutella!

7 thoughts on “He Won’t Have a Pancake this Year

  1. Yes, it’s the end of an era, and you can grieve and cry. But its also the beginning of another one, that will be wonderful and exciting in its own way. Many memories are ahead!

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  2. God bless you Robynn as you send your first child off to college. It’s never been easy for us parents. I like the idea of those pancakes as comfort food. We are great on pancakes in our family and Hu is the one who produces them. A pancake supper, breakfast, or brunch has always been a happy event in our household. Inviting friends for pancakes is still one of our favorite menus. It’s a warm and cozy way of fellowship.

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  3. I made those very pancakes this morning for my great-nephews. I (and Emma) cooked them on my mother’s ancient griddle and we ate them with home made blueberry sauce and for some of us, nutella. The nutella discussion led to things that parents would supply for boarding. I didn’t know that nutella could be eaten by the spoonful! That pancake recipe is one of the ties to my ‘other’ life and the dear friends that inhabit that world. Circumstances change, our children move into different spheres that don’t include us and it hurts. As I face another move and change in my own life, I am tempted to panic and want my mum and her pancakes. It’s at this moment, when I am tested, I am trying to say, “Jesus, be everything I need, help me remember that it is all fleeting and that I my hope is in you.” It doesn’t take away the hurt but strengthens me through it. You may not do it for Connor this year, but perhaps Connor will make his own with a great big “F” on it (for freshman, not flunky!) and he may even bless someone else with it in the future. Great tradition!

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  4. >hugs< Robynn, I'm right there with you…. I'm sending my second child to college this year and it doesn't seem to get easier….sigh….

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  5. My husband and I cried in our parked car after we dropped our first born off at his house in the U-district. It is so painful loving and caring for these kids God has given us! We are stretched beyond what we think we can endure, yet somehow we do. That son now has a family of his own and they live in India. They come for long visits or we go to them. Such joy to be reunited, and again the sorrow of saying good-bye. May you go from strength to strength as you trust your son into the Father’s loving hands.

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  6. I really liked reading your writing. I liked reading all the details about making the pancake too.
    I have kids and sometimes I see them and wonder if it will be hard when they leave. There is something sweet and wonderful that kids bring to my life.

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  7. Dear, dear Robynn, I cried with you reading this post. Ed and Dan had birthdays in March, after getting back to school. That was so hard for me. We always had an early birthday party before they left, but it wasn’t the same. And the year we left Ed in the USA for his senior year of High School was so hard. The hardest for me was the MCS graduation of 1971 – his class, and he wasn’t there. (I see how many times I’ve written “hard”!) Letting go of kids is truly one of the hardest things we do, but it’s what our goal is in parenting from the beginning – those first steps away from us, the first day of kindergarten, sending them away for a week of camp, in our case 3 months of boarding. It helped me, and helps me still, to remember that each one belongs to the Lord, and not to me. And the responsibility and privilege of praying for them never ends on this earth, and maybe not even in heaven! Blessings on you -enjoy each day you have. Don’t spoil it by wishing it were more! That has been my philosophy with our grown children, not that I’ve perfected my behavior yet. I try to savor the moments or days. Just sent Ed and Su off to the conference where you will be seeing them, and Granddaughter Sarah off to work after a lovely breakfast visit, with leftover chicken curry and rice for her dinner.

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