This mother did not spend sleepless nights wondering what to gift her teenage daughter. She’d already zeroed on the gift. Of course, she did spend sleepless nights trying to figure out how to hide the gift from her daughter, especially when it was being assembled in the front yard. But then mothers can be cunningly charming 🙂
The mother is Christobelle Joseph, a food writer and columnist for a newspaper. She is also the mother of three children and the wife of one man (polygamy is a lot of hard work).
The daughter is Keyah, first born and who was turning a precious 14.
The gift — an old cupboard turned into a beautiful baking station.
Keyah began baking cakes for family and friends when she was only 10. Her love for baking evolved organically. As a child when she was struggling with Maths and Hindi in school, Christobelle decided to don her baker’s apron and teach her kid the difficult subjects via baking. Christobelle was and still is a great believer in integrated learning — and also in baking.
Fractions were taught while measuring flour and sugar. Hindi was learnt through smell, touch, sight et al. Even as mother and daughter spent hours getting their hands dirty with flour and butter, Keyah’s Maths and Hindi improved. That the house was always filled with the warm smell of baking was an added advantage. It was a cosy and secure home.
As days passed by, Christobelle allowed her little girl to experiment in the kitchen. On one condition, though: “She had to clean up after she was done .” It’s been over a year since Keyah turned ‘professional ‘. Now, her small-scale baking business is teaching her the principles of management, profit and loss. The latter, she learnt the hard way — initially, she would end up spending Rs 3000 on a Rs.1000 cake. And the mother lets her child make those “costly” mistakes. Nothing teaches you like an empty wallet at the end of gruelling work. But, I think, now Keyah’s learnt to keep a careful eye on the balance sheet. These days, she’s been buying baking products (those can burn huge holes in your pocket) and shoes (in that order) with her “own money.” Her parents and grandparents add to the kitty too.
That’s why Christobelle decided to gift her daughter a baking station for Keyah’s birthday. Mama Hen bought an old cupboard on Second to None forum on Facebook. Got a carpenter to remodel it. Used the wrapping paper her mother sent from Australia to cover the shelves. Made labels out of black cardboard and chalk for bottles and mason jars, and used handy board pins to hang spoons and spatulas. She painted the cupboard in Keyah’s favourite colour.
Keeping it a surprise was the hardest part for Christobelle, especially when the gift was taking shape in the front yard, with a carpenter who invariably turned up at a time when he was not supposed to. Though Christobelle had begged him to come home and work on the cupboard when Keyah was in school, he’d always land up at the same time that she’d return home. And the mother had to find innovative ways not to tell lies (she needs to set a good example, you see), but the at the same time not exactly telling the truth either. (Yeah, mothers can be wonderfully conniving — in a nice way)
“It was a labour of love,” Christobelle says. But the look on her daughter’s face when she saw the baking station — priceless! But we think the greatest gift was the gift of an endearing memory, something Keyah would cherish even when she turns 80.
Happy birthday Keyah!