Ciao'd while watching the president-elect meet with the president.
"Mr. Trump Goes to Washington." The reality show.
My sisters and I hosted a birthday party for my parents last weekend. My mom is turning 80 this month, and my dad marked 85 in September. Flowers arranged, posters hung, balloons anchored and the cake displayed, we sipped cocktails before the crowd arrived.
Living on the other side of the country, I hadn’t seen many of the guests for years. The dear people who had figured so prominently in my youth now lingered in my mind like time-warped participants in the childhood game of statues. Though they seemed old to me as a kid, they were, in fact, young. Younger than I am now. And here they were in their ebb tide.
Every generation thinks their world is faster and more complex than their parents’ world. How many times have we uttered “it was simpler back then?” Our generation gyrates at the speed of technology. Women work with more opportunity for satisfaction and success (thanks to the women who went before us). Roe vs. Wade sealed our freedom to decide what’s right for our bodies. Since we were born, there have been many firsts for women, among them Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court, Margaret Thatcher elected as British prime minister, Aretha Franklin to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Walkman gave way to the iPod. And, yes!, The Oprah Winfrey Show went national. Amongst the advances, we endure the setbacks. Chernobyl, 9/11, and the “Black Monday” economic crisis prompted us to worry about the world our children will occupy. War, terrorism, and racial unrest bullyrag us.
But were our parents’ lives that different from ours? They existed in a milieu of advances themselves, including the first heart transplant and the first walk on the moon. Their lives were made easier (and more fun) with the introduction of the TV remote and the VCR, not to mention the Super Bowl and Playboy magazine. Our mothers benefited from the founding of The National Organization for Women (NOW) and FDA approval of the birth control pill in ways that gave them more prominent voices and jurisdiction over their bodies. Our parents’ generation endured wars, terrorism (the Olympic games in Munich), and social unrest. The Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King fueled fear for their children's futures.
In this week where we experienced a political sea change, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the landslide election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936. He won the office having claimed that the government had been taken hostage by “privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsty for power.” He promised that the New Deal (think back to civics class everybody) would redress the balance of power between the people and the “economic royalists.” And when FDR was elected, he proclaimed that the “political equality we once had won.” Sound familiar?
At the party, my parents’ friends reminisced with my sisters and me. Their stories enriched our recall. The flickering images of my parents and their friends leaning into each other talking, arms around each other walking, heads thrown back laughing came into focus. The 50-year history of camaraderie they share schooled me on a lesson I should have learned long ago. While circumstances, obligations, and “stuff” loom loudly, it’s the quiet spaces where life resonates.
Our lives don't differ markedly from our parents' lives. The world goes on. Albeit sometimes distressingly. I think it's time for cake.
CHOCOLATE CHIP DATE CAKE
Chocolate Chip Date Cake was a regular at gatherings when I was a kid. It's easy to make, simple to transport and pleasing to all. Make it ahead. It's even more luscious the next day.
Serves 10 to 12
24 dates, chopped
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (12-ounce package) semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13-inch cake pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the dates, boiling water, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Stir; let cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, 1 cup of the sugar, and the eggs. Beat until fluffy and well-mixed.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, the remaining 1 teaspoon baking soda, and the salt. Add to the cake batter and, alternating with the date mixture (including water), beat until combined.
In a small bowl, mix together the chocolate chips, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, and the nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chip mixture.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.