A Life in Pancakes: Pancakes of Childhood

To glorify Pancake Day on Tuesday, i’ve decided to relive my greatest pancake memories. To begin, I present my complex relationship with pancakes as a young, obnoxious child growing up in Canada.

1. I spent much of my childhood at Clarence Baptist Church. Every Easter, the noble men of the congregation would cook ‘bunny pancakes’. There was much competition over who made the most realistic bunny shapes. It was very holy.

2. I suffered terrible pancake-related cultural dissonance when as a child my preference continuously flopped back and forth between my mother’s paper-thin Bristish lemon and sugar pancakes and my very cool Grandma’s thick, fluffy, buttery American pancakes, dripping with syrup. I loved both. Publically, I sided with the American pancakes, but secretly, I just didn’t know and it caused me great distress. At 24, I learned that South African pancakes beat them both and this lifelong conflict was resolved.

3. As a young child, my parents knew I had a remarkable ability to eat pancakes. They’d always count how many I could eat in a sitting- 6, 9, 17, 23 etc… As a result, they treated me like a sideshow act. They’d take me into a pancake house (IHOP, Golden Griddle, etc…) and as we were being seated, I’d always announce to the waitress that I was “having pancakes please” and my parents would chip in, “just wait until you see how many pancakes this kid will eat!” They would proceed to order me plate after plate after plate of pancakes with no regard whatsoever for my health. And at Golden griddle, they’d always order me an extra tub of maple syrup too. When I was about to burst, they’d laugh and say, “Well, I think you’ve finally beaten her…!” to the waitress as she took my plate away. This happened every time and by the time I was 14, it just wasn’t funny anymore.

4. One of my very earliest memories involves me staying with a strange lady in Ottawa who was definitely not one of my parents. I haven’t got a clue who this woman was or why I was staying with her, but I remember she got me up very early in the morning and took me to buy a Barbie doll, and then said we were going to McDonalds for breakfast. I remember being upset (but still thankful) at the prospect of a burger for breakfast, before she explained that McDonalds did pancakes. This changed my life. My parents had withheld this information from me.

6. When I was about five, I was playing in the basement with my younger cousin (pictured), when my mom called us up for pancakes. The smell of pancakes wafted down the stairs. As she climbed the stairs, the cousin jokingly declared, “I can smell it! I can smell it! I can puke in it!” My mom completely lost her mind. In all the years since, I have never seen her so completely enraged. This is also the source of the emetophobia I suffered for the next 20 years.

7. For a while, my dad had a lot of business in Florida. We spent a few separate holidays there, but always stayed at the Double Tree Guest Suites in Orlando. On each trip, every morning at 6 or so, I’d go down to restaurant alone and sit at the bar with a huge plate of pancakes watching Gilligan’s Island on the bar TV and talking to the nice Jamaican waitress. She even fixed my broken sandals once. Good times. The photo below is from one of those visits. Note the goofy hat, which served as my Halloween costume for the next 5 years, the troll doll keychain, the hockey shirt, the huge plastic glasses and the ‘bum bag’. But note also that absolutely everyone in the background is also wearing a ‘bum bag’. That makes it okay.

8. We’d have pancake dinners at home often enough, but it’s the pancake breakfasts that were a real treat. For some reason (lazylazymother) we never had pancake breakfasts at home. I absolutely despised friends who saw pancakes as a breakfast food. I openly scoffed in their faces. I only ever had pancake breakfasts when we were travelling, so I’ve come to associate them with holidays and highway service stations and hotel restaurants and my all time love, the continental breakfast. Finding a hotel which featured pancakes in its continental breakfast was like winning the lottery. Below: Las Vegas was a goldmine for pancake breakfasts.

9. I had one of those little plastic tupperware cooking sets when I was young. My mother saw this as a chance to get me making my own pancakes. This was never as enjoyable as it could have been, because she was extremely irrational when it came to the stirring process. She believed that all pancakes were doomed to FAIL unless you cautiously dug a tiny hole in the flour in the bottom of the bowl. To this hole, you would have to add the milk drop by drop and stir a few grains of flour into the drops of milk before repeating the process again, and again, and again, and again, and again until the mixture finally became ‘pancake batter’. There is no better way to suck the fun out of pancakes.

Up next: The move to England… pancakes and university…

Early Childhood: 27 Little Things

Since i’ve been working with children again, i’ve been making a conscious effort to always remember what makes them tick. When i’m playing with D (3 years old), I know that for the rest of his life, he’ll remember what it feels like to squash Play-Doh between his fingers, even if he never did it again.

What are the little things that tiny kids live for and look forward to each day? What objects bring the most comfort, joy and familiarity? What smells and what sensations will they remember for the rest of their lives? I think this was one of my biggest failings the last time I worked with children. I didn’t remember these things. I was just an adult, acting as an adult interacting with a child. I wasn’t a child myself. I didn’t think about how each little word, object, action and feeling shapes who they are and who they’ll become. You can’t understand what they go through unless you can remember what it was like.

So i’ve been working on a list of the little things that I loved and lived for when I was very small. No one will understand this list but me, and I hope that i’ll never forget any of these treasured little memories.

1. Lego trees. My Grandma had a killer Lego collection. Very, very cool Grandma.

2. Jodie’s basement: Fisher Price roller skates, mini hockey sticks, the spikey roof that sparkled, jumping from the top step.

3. “Don’t touch the bait”

4. McDonald’s cheeseburgers (no sauce, made to order) on the conference table at Daddy’s office.

5. The dark hallway at the Museum of Nature that led to the dinosaur exhibit

6. Being called up to collect Brownie badges that were stapled to little yellow pieces of paper. I was a badge whore and I had to have them ALL.

7. The round, silver radiators with the little round holes in them, along every wall at Ottawa Airport. Walking on them, sitting on them, sliding on them, talking into them.

8. Counting herons on the way to church. The smell of the paper mill across the river in Quebec that accompanied these first forays into birdwatching.

9. Care Bear books at the library.

10. My Sesame Street book. The one where you had to place your nose or fingers on little coloured circles. So much satisfaction.

11. Grandma’s hamburger phone. (Cool Grandma- see above)

12. Being yelled at by my ballet teacher when practicing our routine to ‘Locomotion’. Believing the woman who sang the Locomotion song sounded really angry herself…

13. Reader’s Digest Guide to the Wildlife of North America. Always checking to see if bears lived in my area.

14. The pet store at the ‘brown shopping centre’ in Montreal. Always full of monkeys for sale. Long before ethics.

15. Metallic turquoise horizontal blinds. The sound they made when I trailed my finger across them. The way they bounced back into shape.

16. Climbing the climbing structure at the Boston Children’s Museum. Parents had to use stairs to get to the next level. Me? I could just climb.

17. Lake Placid and my Lake Placid Bumper sticker with the hologram rainbow and hearts on it. It was the most beautiful thing i’d ever seen in my life.

18. Whenever my dad came home from a business trip, i’d wake up the following morning with a new Barbie doll propped up on the floor by my door. The doll always corresponded to where he had been. ‘California Barbie’, for example.

19. Building ‘buses’ at church using chairs. Boarding these buses. Sitting at the back.

20. The downfall and resulting moral teachings of Sidney the Squirrel. On cassette each night before bed.

21. A tiny fuzzy sticker of a baby seal. The softest sticker ever.

22. “What’s under Bob’s cushion?” After MASH and before Star Trek. Usually while watching my dad eat a bag of Hostess BBQ Ruffles chips.

23. Being lifted up by my mother to push the brightly coloured buttons on the ATM at TD Bank. They made the most wonderful beeps i’ve ever heard. Love.

24. The smell of cheap shoes at Giant Tiger

25. Construction paper: ripping it, cutting it with safety scissors, gluing it to stuff, always being left with brown after the nice colours had been used up.

26. The IGA grocery store Cookie Club. “I am a child. I am at the grocery store. Give me a free cookie.”

27. Boppin’ Away: The song. The hot pink cassette it came on. The idea that Barbie herself sang it. The fact that this was my only cassette with actual music, and not bible stories on it. “A smile will set you free.” Embedding disabled, but here, if you must. And you must: BOPPIN’ AWAY