My mom is amazing. She is generous, kind, loving, dedicated, and a million other inspirational things. She goes out of her way, deprives herself of sleep, and extends herself to great lengths to make sure that a lot of other people around her, including her kids feel loved and supported. And she makes whoopie pies. If you are unfamiliar with said whoopie pie, it’s quite possibly one of the most time-consuming, yet delectable desserts to create that is basically a giant soft Oreo cookie, with mini chocolate cakes, parallel to a creamy center. As a child, they were a pretty huge treat, since, as I said, my mom was/is a busy lady doing all kinds of things for other people, so when she took the time to make them for us, it was kind of a big deal.
Fast forward to adulthood, summer of 2007. I’m canoeing down the Namekagon River with my brothers. We were all enjoying ourselves quite a bit, soaking in the summer, along with a decent number of adult beverages, which is just how good canoeing is done. At one point, likely influenced by a combination of the adult beverages and the fact that whoopie pies are really delicious, my brother, Ben, called my mom and left her a message to let her know that he would really like some whoopie pies made for when we got back home.
Now, I thought this was nuts. After all, as I said, whoopie pies are not something you just whip up. However, throughout the course of the day, my brothers, likely influenced by a combination of the adult beverages and how much fun we were having, repeatedly extended the length of our trip, deciding to get off the river at different stops, further and further south, turning this day trip into an evening and eventually night canoe trip. As the sun lowered in the sky and we paddled on, we started to place bets on the likelihood of there being whoopie pies waiting for Ben when we got home, with the final odds being at about 75% in his favor by the time my dad arrived to safely and soberly take us all back to my parents’ home, around 9:30 that night.
Upon arrival, to Ben’s delight (and really all of ours,) we realized our guesses were wrong—-the “Whoopie Pie Odds” were, in fact, 100%, as we found the counter full of them. And I don’t know about the rest of them, but I found myself feeling that exact same surprise and joy to see those morsels of goodness waiting for us that I remember feeling as a child when I would come home from school to see a whoopie pie-laden countertop. However, despite being super excited for the whoopie pies, I was still a little shocked that my mom had made them just becuase he called and left a message to do so, and because I had the liquid courage of a couple of adult beverages in me, I decided to call her out on it. Her response?
“When you have a son that goes to war for a year, and he comes back home alive to you, and then he asks you for whoopie pies, you make him whoopie pies.”
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my brother, Ben, had just come back from serving a year in Iraq, risking his life in the US military to serve and protect this country. Kind of a big thing, which I can only imagine puts an enormous amount of fear, worry, and stress into a mother, followed by excessive relief and gratitude once it’s all done.
I’d like to pretend that I understood her reasoning, because current me realizes that was a beyond-valid point, but at that moment in my life, I had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, and I suspect the most diffucult hardship I had faced as a mother was probably trying to toilet train Giacomo or being in public when Gianna was having one of her volatile, inconsolable tantrums that attracted judgemental glances and/or unsolicited parenting advice. Instead, I had to wait a while, have four kids who all have a degenerative neuromuscular disease, along with a host of other emotional, physical, and medical situations, and then I would start to get it a little. All those things would turn me into the mom who reads extra stories, shows up to all of the performances of my kids’ plays, chaperones as many field trips they allow me to, as well as offers up my time for obscure volunteer oppotunities like driving and hour and a half to pick up (and return) rental vans for a school trip. But even with all that, I still I hadn’t quite reached “Whoopie Pie Mom” status.
Though Giacomo will never have the chance to go off to war, two months ago, I watched him stop breathing and nearly die in front of me. I have watched him fight and endure and tolerate and persevere and overcome, in ways that most other people, children and adults alike, could never fathom doing, and his fight is far from over. I have seen him take each new challenge with grace, acceptance, and incredible resilience. Throughout this hospital stay, he has been a man of very few requests of me or really anyone, with one exception. The Wii.
Yep. This guy wanted a Wii video game console, which seemed to be a simple request since every single room in the other med/surgery floors here have one, and the hospital library is full of Wii games to check out. However, due to isolation precautions, the ICU rooms do NOT have a Wii for every sick kid. No worries–I found a Wii cart in the toy closet! Great! I thought I would add it to the TV/DVD cart that I had already taken from the closet and made a permanent fixture in G’s room since he also didn’t get the luxury of a personal one of those. However, once I got it in his room, we realized that there was was not actually a Wii on the Wii cart. Grr. I started asking around about how we might get a Wii, perhaps from the other floors, yet for some reason, they couldn’t accommodate, as apparently Child Family Life gets upset if they are moved. Grr again. We are at easily over a million bucks into our hospital stay, and the guy couldn’t get the only thing he wanted, something of which there are literally dozens of, just not in this unit.
So, after days of this nonsense and seemingly no way to procure a Wii for G, I had no choice–either go up to the 5th and 6th floors when no one was looking and steal a Wii from a baby up there who didn’t have the manual dexterity or ability to stand upright, both characteristics needed for honing one’s Wii Sports golf skills OR drive to my own home, disconnect the Wii and all its cables and cords from our TV and schelp it on over. As excited as G was about this idea of burgling a Wii from a baby, I figured better not to commit a crime while already a prisoner in the confines of this joint, so I went for the second option, making what would end up being three trips back and forth to have all the necessary components for his Wii requests.
To some, this might seem crazy, since there are a lot of other things to entertain G here, including, but not limited to, a Playstation, XBox, and a few other video game systems that I have never heard of, not being the gaming type, myself. However, as I unplugged the plastic web of cords and scrounged around for controllers, nunchucks, and games misplaced in the wrong case, I was instantly reminded of the kitchen counter covered in whoopie pies. And the son who had returned from war, living to tell the tale of his hardships. And the mom who was so happy to just have her son alive, that she would do anything to grant his requests, despite critcism from others. In that moment, with tears dripping into the bag of Wii items I was gathering that I realized I had done it–I had finally achieved that status of “Whoopie Pie Mom.”
Now, it goes without saying that Giacomo has endured the most trauma of all of us, and is deserving of whatever “Whoopie Pie” he wants, but the other three kiddos have also had to make somg big sacrifices, sustained trauma, and are dealing with thier own battles during G’s time in the ICU. So, just as all of us got to enjoy the Whoopie Pies that Ben requested, I have recently catered to the whims, fancies, and requests of Gianna, Lūck, and Isadora, in true “Whoopie Pie Mom” form.
For them, this looked like things such as going out in the rain to find the Curious George soundtrack in the car and working a little technology magic to figure out how to get it to play in the dinosaur of a laptop in Giacomo’s room, which Lūck is now sleeping in while G is in the hospital (but don’t tell G this because, while it is a bit of a “Whoopie Pie Mom” move to let him sleep in there, it’s probably the opposite for G,) when Lūck couldn’t sleep and needed that very specific music in order to calm him.
Isadora, fighting the constant battle of the youngest and most left out child, in addition to a lot of her own personal trauma, got to have a sleepover in my bed with me. This is not unheard of to let her occasionally sleep with me, however letting her snuggle with me, eat snacks and watch Fuller House on Netflix when it was WAY past her bedtime–as in 11:00 P.M., so abut 4 hours past. Definitely a “Whoopie Pie Mom” thing to do.
In Gianna’s case, my “Whoopie Pie Mom”-ness came in the form of hosting a sleepover birthday party, despite the fact that I was smack in the middle of my own personal chaos, stress, and sleeplessness, as well as making the homemade gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate layer cake (that oddly was similiar to whoopie pies) because she insisted that she was unable to eat anything purchased in the store. (I will admit that I probably lost a couple of “Whoopie Pie Mom” points in the fact that I didn’t take the time to let the cake cool completely before frosting, which caused it to become more of quake than a cake, but I think I’m the only one who really cared.)
And for all, of them, I did something that the practical mom part of me has never done–I let them take the $20 gift cards that a friend gave to each of them, and instead of making them save them for a time when they actually needed something, as in back-to-school or a trip, I let them wander aimlessly around the toy aisles at Target, and ultimately buy whatever they wanted (and definitely didn’t NEED.) This wandering has now brought two more baby dolls and a game that involves a dog shaking its wet silicone fur all over the place.
Their faces of delight were well worth me slipping out of the practical place and into “Whoopie Pie Mom” territory, however the real evidence came once we had them all home and their new loot was freed from the excessive amounts of plastic and cardboard packaging. I caught Isadora tending to her baby with every element of love, tenderness, patience, and compassion one can imagine giving to a doll, and when I commented on what a great mama she was to her baby, she looked at me, smiled her huge ray of sunshine grin, winked, and said, “Well, you know, I’ve gotten some pretty good lessons.”
Yep, you did girl, just like I did. “Whoopie Pie Mom” lessons. The most influential, lasting, and vital ones possible.