My Magical Inheritance
August 6, 2016
those who don’t believe in magic will never find it- Roald Dahl
We’ve all seen movies with the scene of a bereaved family in an attorney’s office. The widow wears black while the extended family eye each other over who gets the bigger piece of financial pie. For dramatic effect, an attorney reads a letter penned by the deceased just before their death and the family discovers that the deceased has left everything to a distant cousin or a baby or the trophy wife.
That’s not the way it happened for me because my grandfather died when I was six and instead of a financial windfall there was an army pension. My grandmother went from being the wife of a baker, helping to run a business, to being a clerk at Kmart. As far as any letters written by my grandfather, my mother has some only because she swiped them from a blanket chest when she was a kid. The everything that was left when my grandfather died wasn’t a lot.
This is where the story could dissolve into rampant nostalgia and coat your teeth like saccharine because me grandfather left me his bakery mixer.
Well, not exactly. He didn’t plan on dying of a heart attack so he didn’t say what he would say in my grandfather fairy tale: “Christine should have my favorite mixer, the one I made frosting with, the one I made her parents’ wedding cake with, my best and most special mixer of all. And when she uses it all her cakes will come out spongy and light.”
Instead my mother gave it to me when I was 37. She surprised me with it and since I wrote an essay about that already, for PAGE magazine, I’ll pick up where that story left off- with me hoping to move to my forever house one day and hoping to have a designated place for the mixer, my magical behemoth of non-residential kitchen equipment. And surprisingly, I did and I do.
After a decade of storing the mixer in my basement, I’ve finally done it. I took my inheritance, my unusable 1950s commercial baking mixer, to get repaired. Mice have chewed the cord and the paint is crazed and peeling. It weighs seventy-five pounds and is unwieldy as hell. But I picked it up like I was hugging it and got it off its wood and metal stand. I got it outside to the car by dragging it on a moving blanket. I drove it forty miles, took it out of my trunk and gave it to a man named David, AKA Mr. Fix-It. He gave me a receipt that fit in my change purse.
I bake. Not like my grandfather baked, first as a teenage apprentice in someone else’s bakery, then his own, and then someone else’s again- but in my own kitchen. And I don’t NEED a commercial mixer that weighs 75 pounds with its own stand that takes up as much floor space as a statue to bake chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. I already have a countertop KitchenAid mixer. It’s 23 years old and works great.
I don’t need a commercial mixer at all. What I need is magic.
This is the thing about things: they have a life. My grandfather’s mixer had a long relationship with him, much longer than the relationship I had with him. So this mixer owes me. It owes me frosting lessons, because I suck at applying frosting. It owes me more stories about my grandfather’s childhood in Baltimore because he only had time to tell me a few. The one I remember best is about him jumping over blood in the street from the pig slaughter houses. Now, how can we just leave it there? My grandfather could tell great stories, and I want more.
Of course, I won’t be getting everything I want. My grandfather won’t be here when the mixer is re-installed to teach me how to frost like a pro or tell me more stories. If I want magic, I’ll have to bake it and write the rest of the story myself.
This morning I came downstairs and was almost surprised to see the mixer stand without its partner. Mr. Fix-It will have my magical inheritance for a few weeks. I looked at the stand while I drank my tea.
I’ve begun making a list of desserts I will bake when the mixer returns. Complicated things, with ingredients like super-fine sugar, real whipped cream, and chocolate glazes. I imagine my counter covered in lightly whipped desserts.
The longing for a lost grandparent is like a nostalgia craving, both are delicate and sweet and coat my teeth.
And I let them.