The smell of flour rises from the bowl. Her son stands on a chair beside her, dull green measuring cups neatly lined up in front of him. He grabs the spatula she hands him, stirs until the flour whirls up, sticking to their eyelashes and coating their lips. He licks off the sticky paste and grimaces. It tastes like chalk. She hands him a tablespoon of baking soda, some salt to pour in. He mixes again, slower this time.
She dumps the peeled bananas into another bowl, hands him the potato masher. Bits of banana fly onto the counter, soft and brown as he whips the masher against the bottom of the bowl again and again. In yet another bowl, she dumps a stick of butter and some brown sugar. She fits the beaters into the hand mixer she’s gotten from the cabinet underneath the countertop, holds the backs of her son’s hands as she turns it on. It smells sweet and electric. She directs the wild spin of the thing until the bottom of the bowl is covered in a gritty paste. She cracks in two eggs, adds the vanilla, lets her son dump in the mashed banana. He uses his fingers to scoop out all the remaining bits.
She slowly adds the flour mixture into the bowl of wet ingredients while he stirs. “Gentle,” she says. Together, they add a cup of chocolate chips coated in flour, “so they don’t sink,” her own mother’s trick for keeping the chocolate from forming into a solid mass at the bottom of the pan. She dumps some extras into his upturned palms. He eats them one by one, letting them melt on his tongue. She watches as they slowly turn to soup from the heat of his hands. Later, she will find chocolate streaked across the cabinets, the back of her shorts, the paper bag of flour despite the fact that she’s had him wash his hands. She helps him pour the batter into the loaf pan they’ve sprayed with Pam. Before she can stop him, he sticks his finger into the batter and pops it into his mouth with a grin.
She shakes her head and places in the pan in the oven. “Middle of the top rack,” she says, her own mother’s voice in her mouth again. “Now, it’s naptime.”
He begins to scream, “I want to taste it! You’re going to eat it all!”
She tells him, no, she will save it for him, that it will be waiting for him when he wakes up, that while he’s in bed the smell will fill every corner of the house and lay itself down with him in his bedroom.
He’s indifferent. “I want some now.”
Sighing, she grabs a spoon, fills it with a scoop of oven-warmed goo before handing it to him and grabbing a spoonful for herself. “Only to hold you over,” she tells him, the two of them eating the batter like ice cream, chunks of banana and melting chocolate filling their mouths. They sit on the kitchen floor in front of the oven as they eat, both silent.
She tosses the spoons in the sink before gathering all the things he needs for his nap – his cars and babies and books. He puts his hands on the oven door, presses his nose against its warmth, licks the glass. He ignores her calls to follow her upstairs, her sing-song voice high and wheedling in her own ears. Finally, she grabs him and carries him up the stairs, his body straining and legs kicking wildly at her thighs and knees. She settles him into his bed, sings him a song through his anger, lies next to him while he flails and tosses his arms and legs against the mattress. She waits until his muscles give out until sleep sneaks up on him and he’s quiet. Then, she sneaks back downstairs, the door closed ever so slowly behind her. Once downstairs, she ignores all the dishes spread across the counters, the flour coating the oven burners, the small pieces of eggshell glued to the tile at her feet. Instead, she presses her own face to the oven door, resisting the urge to lick it.