“Lizzie said I’m too old to wear ‘Mom jeans.'”
Michelle burst out laughing.
“You are! We wore those back in the eighties.”
“I told her that shaming was not allowed in our home and that I could wear whatever I wanted.”
“Do you even look good in those jeans? Because I’m guessing not.”
“I mean they are not my best look ever. I was in Urban Outfitters buying Lizzie a few things and I needed a pair of jeans; the salesperson said I looked amazing in them.”
Michelle was laughing hysterically now.
“Oh my God, stop it Michelle,” said Laura starting to laugh. “Changing the subject now. How’s Joshua?”
“Joshua is driving me nuts. He just asked me for a hundred dollars to buy some new limited edition sweatshirt. A sweatshirt. I can’t believe we have kids.”
“Me either. Remember in high school when we promised each other that we would never marry, never have kids and just travel the world together?”
“I know, such cuties we were. Ok, gotta go. Love you girl.”
Laura put the lasagna in the oven then went into Lizzie’s room to gather the detritus of teenage life:
5 dirty glasses
3 towels stained Manic Panic Electric Pink Pussycat
4 empty chip bags
2 cereal bowls but no spoons
clothing everywhere – like an H & M store on a Saturday.
Her bedroom was a tableau of teenage life that you might stumble upon at a cool downtown gallery.
The one thing that Lizzie kept clean and organized was the makeup area in her bathroom: lipglosses, brushes and eyeliners all standing tall and proud in their clear plastic containers.
“I can’t believe my fourteen year old daughter has her own bathroom,” Laura thought to herself.
Growing up she had shared a cramped, second floor bathroom with two younger brothers. Every morning her mother would yell:
“For the Love of God Laura, let your brothers in the bathroom! You can put your makeup on downstairs.”
Laura’s mother would drive them to school wearing curlers in her hair. Though it was mortifying at the time, Laura now appreciated it as a practical mom thing to do.
After tidying up and doing laundry, Laura poured herself a glass of Cab Sauvignon which she sipped while making a salad.
Lizzie slothed into the house with a deflated look on her face. She had dyed her hair pink to impress Violet, her latest crush. Violet was a very tall, very skinny girl who had long straight aquamarine hair. She wore all-black and spoke with a British accent from her years living in London. In typical high school fashion, where getting one’s heart broken was as common as bad cafeteria food, it turned out that Violet was not interested in Lizzie. Violet only had eyes for Brian.
“How could she like Brian?! He’s like – what’s that word you love using mom?”
“Ya! He’s smarmy! And he wears these eighties style polo shirts with the collar up – like ‘ironic-preppy.’ He’s repulsive.”
“He sounds vile. Listen, I am so, so sorry about Violet, but honey on the positive side – your hair looks amazing!” Laura said while kissing her sweet, freckled, fourteen year old forehead.
“Dinner is fifteen minutes out so don’t eat too much crap.”
Lizzie backward-waved at her from the hallway on her way to her bedroom.
“Smells delicious babe,” her husband kissed her neck as he passed through the kitchen.
“I just need to call Tom Finklestein, be right back,” he said tossing his blazer on the couch.
“Fifteen minutes or I’m never making dinner again.”
The lasagna was a big hit and Lizzie told her dad all about Violet and Smarmy Brian.
“Oh Lizzie, I’m sorry, what an upsetting day. But let me tell you something: anyone who chooses ironic preppy over you has a major problem. As your grandma used to say – For The Love Of God.”
They all laughed. David was very good at making Lizzie laugh when she was upset, it was one of the things Laura loved most about him.
Lizzie’s fuchsia hair had inspired Laura, so in the middle of the night she went into her studio and started working on a new canvas. It would be the final painting in her series entitled “Shirley’s Cakes,” due to showcase at The Topanga Canyon Gallery, where rich Bohemians bought Laura’s artwork.
Her mother, Shirley, had been the love of her life and though she had died over two years ago, Laura still felt raw with grief. Shirley had been an amazing baker and had been especially fond of baking – and eating – cakes. Laura started painting her mother with fuchsia hair and curlers, stirring an oversized bowl of cake batter. The bowl was cauldron-like, as if she was stirring up a magic potion.
As she worked on creating the desired shade of pink, Laura remembered a pink cake Shirley had once baked for her: when Laura first got her period, Shirley had surprised her with a two-layer red velvet cake with pink colored cream cheese icing. It read “Congratulations!” in red cursive and her brothers had been jealous:
“Why does she get a special cake? It’s not fair!’
Shirley had yelled:
“Because she’s a woman today – she got her period! Women deserve period cakes every month.”
Her dad had simply said:
“Stop being knuckleheads so we can eat the cake.”
While painting, Laura often spoke to her mother – out loud. One time David had walked in on her and asked:
“Are you on speakerphone?”
“No, I’m chatting with my mother.”
Laura told her mother about Violet and Smarmy Brian and about how she and Michelle were planning a girl’s trip to NYC in October.
Shirley always had opinions:
“That Violet is faking her accent, she only lived in London for two years. And For The Love Of God Laura, please buy a proper fall coat. Every time you travel to the east coast you’re freezing – you’re such an LA girl! By the way, I love Lizzie’s her new hair color, what a spectacular young woman she is.”
“I know. Sometimes I just look at her and I want to cry because she’s so precious to me.”
“That’s how I was with you. When you were young I would just stand at your bedroom door with tears streaming down my face; I was overwhelmed by my love for you.
“I miss you mom. I’m going to make coffee now because I need to be awake when I drive Lizzie to school.”
“Before you go: make sure the gallery prices these painting high. Soon half of Hollywood is going to have Laura Keating paintings in their fancy homes. I’m so proud of you.”
Laura made a pot of coffee, then had one of her madcap ideas: she would bake Lizzie a Betty Crocker cake for breakfast. Lizzie loved their yellow cake with the canned chocolate frosting. Laura checked the pantry to make sure she had everything and then, since David was still asleep, she took an army shower and threw on her school drop-off uniform:
skinny jeans, tank top and long, kimono-style robe.
She grabbed some healthy snacks for Lizzie and threw them on top of her black Converse so she wouldn’t forget to take them to school.
At 7:00 am Laura woke her up by standing at her door and blasting The Go-Go’s “Our Lips are Sealed” on her iphone.
“OMG mom seriously?! Stop it with the 80’s music wake-ups!”
“But they’re so fun! Get ready, I have a special breakfast for you.”
“I’m not going to school. I don’t want to see Violet and Smarmy Brian googly-eyeing each other.”
“Wear something fabulous – maybe that new asymmetrical top thing-y, and do one of your dramatic cat eyes. Then just walk down those hallways letting your light shine bright.”
“Mom, you sound kind of lit, have you been up all night painting?”
“Yes I have darlin! Breakfast in 20 minutes.”
Laura gulped down coffee and finished frosting the cake. She poured Lizzie a glass of orange juice and set a place for her at the kitchen table with the cake placed in front of her.
David zoomed through and said:
“I’m late, I’ll grab a Starbucks on the road. Cake for breakfast? You’re nuts. Have a good day babe!” He kissed her on the cheek as he flew out.
“You baked me Betty Crocker for breakfast?!”
Lizzie sat down and Laura cut them both big pieces.
“Lizzie, this cake is to celebrate how fucking spectacular you are. Please don’t ever forget it. Got it?
“Got it,” said Lizzie taking a massive bite. “This is sooo yummy!”
“And another thing: between the cake and the orange juice your blood sugar level is going to crash in an hour or less, so make sure to have one of those protein bars on you, otherwise you’re likely to go off.”
“Will do. Becks just texted me. She wants me to come over for dinner tonight, her mom will pick us up. Can I go?”
“Her mom is that super conservative woman right?”
“Okay, but just promise me you won’t listen to a word she says.”
“I’m going to tell her you made me cake for breakfast.”
“Oh I love that, please do – she will be horrified.”
They finished eating in happy silence.