A few months ago I found myself in need of a ride from my parents’ house in San Francisco to the airport to catch a flight home.
I was wearing my Easter dress at the time my drivers pulled up, which I had alternated wearing with my black Puma sweat pants for two weeks – the only two outfits I had packed for what was supposed to have been an overnight trip home for the holiday.
But as luck would have it, I ended up on an extended stay, spending most days at my mother’s oncologist’s office, with these stupid pastel stripes mocking me, as news of the return of her cancer unfolded.
Everyone wants to help in these kinds of situations, of course, so rather than take a cab to the airport once my mom’s condition had stabilized, a friend of my mother’s, the friend’s daughter and their tiny dog came to pick me up in their gold Lexus. I forced a smile across my lips as I slumped into their car, but no matter how tight I cinched my bubble gum sash, I couldn’t squeeze out anything positive to say.
Once again, my cheery frock had failed my state of mind.
“I’m doing a chemical study on screw caps versus corks on wine bottles,” the daughter offered, in an effort to break the silence.
I half-nodded at her in the rear view mirror, and turned away to look out the window.
“The results are showing that caps are superior in perpetuating flavor longevity, even in champagne.”
I continued to ignore her, until I was suddenly reminded of something my mother had told me when I when I was little.
According to my mom, housewives – back in her day – were looking for some shortcuts in their daily tasks in an effort to gain more independence. So Betty Crocker formulated instant cake mix.
“Just add water,” the box said.
Well, it flopped.
“Women wanted to make their lives a little easier” my mom explained, “not less meaningful.”
So Betty Cocker reformulated her mix to include adding an egg.
The rest, of course, is history.
“Corks are a tradition!” I blurted out to my mom’s friend, her daughter and their tiny dog, likening the cork to Betty’s egg. “Whether caps are superior or not, science can’t take away a feeling.”
The rest of the ride was spent in silence, with me staring down at a rainbow of rudeness in my lap, and them, undoubtedly, lamenting her wasted semester.
I called my mom once I landed to tell her I had arrived safely. Before hanging up I asked her what she thought of screw caps. She said they reminded her of drinking alone. I said they reminded me of tiny dogs in gold Lexuses.
Fast forward to a couple of months, a few more plane rides and a clean CT scan later, and I’m reminded of Betty Crocker once again. Somehow that lady in gingham knew that the egg was just the right ingredient – the very symbol of renewal of life – to show us that sometimes, life is indeed what it’s cracked up to be.
No matter what inside’s that box of yours (or bottle, in my case) that represents your life as a parent, spouse, patient or friend, you’ll savor it longer when you give it all you’ve got.
And if you’re lucky, you’ll never have to eat what’s inside – or drink