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Cake Decorating is a Construct

Open conversation class often teaches that topics can be more illuminating when your vocabulary is limited.  For example, several months ago we discussed our bucket lists.  I put two items on mine.  The first one came to mind quickly, hiking the Inca trail.  It was a somewhat accessible, non-sky diving, but definitely adventurous, option I had considered off and on for years.  It took a moment, but then I added a second, much quieter, list item, cake decorating.  Though many assumed this was directly connected with my niece, that was only partially true.  If I was being honest, it had made the list since I worked at a bakery in college.  I had marveled at the quick wrist movements, the accuracy and beauty that swirled onto the white surface with little hesitation.  There were no promotions beyond clerk at that job.  Nonetheless, I had celebrated when I was taught to write customers' names on premade cakes in the refrigerator case.  When we returned from our breakout conversation rooms to the main group, our teacher had a follow up question, "What are you doing to make this happen?"  

What was I doing? Not to step, as if on the Inca trail, but to construct.

Hmm. . . I had a set of decorating tips in my kitchen nook.  I bought them to share with my niece.  First, my plan was to make cocoa bombs and decorate the tops. We would only have to secure the tips and squeeze, but she wasn't interested in anything else besides colorful sprinkles.  When I tried the second time with a project for her ninth birthday, my niece informed me that she wasn't interested in buttercream frosting, only whipped.  I put the activity aside, as if this was more her list item than my own.  Cake decorating had only been a means to an end in building our relationship, not its own construct.

What was I doing?

I started Googling nearby classes. I signed up for two. The first was a bouquet of cupcake 'sunflowers'. The second was a two tiered cake overflowing in roses. I mused aloud with my aunt and my father.  Each one, separately, shared a sweet memory of their mother's artistic prowess creating roses. 

Maybe a connection that should have been had been severed, but there was still something left upon which to build.  It would be built between nouns. In Hebrew there is a construct for compound nouns. When these nouns are put together, we understand a more specific object, for example, Belgian chocolate cake'. I shared an image of the designs I would learn to make with my sister-in-law.  I started to type. . . 'cake'. . .I got to the word 'shel' and realized possession was not the answer.  The design did not possess the cake, nor did the cake possess the design. Neither belonged to me. In fact, not taking ownership of this activity as something I wanted had been part of the problem, not for my relationship with my niece but my relationship with myself.

The cake instructor's hands were in front of me, guiding, in clear steps.  

Choose colors.  Tip design.  

"Choose your colors."  I hadn't prepared for that.  I was overwhelmed.  Told myself it could all go wrong from the start with awful colors.  I asked the teacher to choose.    Smooth rolls of shadow blended from bottom to top in shades of the mauve I most associated with my mother.   'Cake design class' was an example of semijoot, a phrase of three connected nouns, an example of when connection of individuals made something new. A twist of a final vowel sound and my thumb and two fingers on the 'nail', either and both provided something upon which to build.

What steps are you taking?  Build confidence.

Twist with pressure and turn to secure the coupling.  

Manage my own frustration.  

Insert frosting in its own cartridge that you can remove again.  Squeeze and pull.  

Each flower was its own short sentence.  Short sentences were easier to control, but you still needed the right construct.

Blob in the middle.  Twisted spiral of center.  Tap it.  Shake it.  Return it to the center before you continue.  (I laughed remembering all the times I was asked to read sentences again from the beginning after I understood where they were going.)

Accept what I could not control. Blob, spiral and then swooping rainbow arches towards me while the nail in my other hand rotated away.  

Short and sure is better.  My family was too busy to be language practice partners.  

Keep your effort even. The women in my family had stopped or were stopped from sharing what they knew.

Circle.  Layer.  Focus, and then, step away.

 The instructor gave her cake to her mother. She hoped her mother liked the blush pink petals. I have not celebrated Mother's Day since 1989. In Israel, my sister-in-law doesn't celebrate Mother's Day. Mother's Day is a construct. So are buttercream roses. Semijoot. Words in relationship.  The words imply actions.  Actions connect people.  Constructs because of relationship.

Once my roses were in relationship to the cake, I found new ways to fill in gaps. It was not a trail in Peru which belonged to its people, a trail that began and ended. Cake decorating was a construct. Building up layers of flour, eggs and sugar for future relationships and past.


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