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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

76 Trombones

“It’s your birthday today,” I told Mom.

“It’s my birthday?” she asked innocently. “We’ll have to have a party.”

We’d already come back from a celebratory lunch, but Mom didn’t remember. When we asked her to guess how old she was, she answered 16 or 17. I don’t think I’d chose that age again, though at 16, I was a strong individual with an eye to the future. Teenagers willfully forget common sense and sometimes even reality to pursue their own agendas.

In comparison, Mom’s forgetting was jagged and unintentional. She couldn’t work out that she should be older than me by virtue of being my mother. When Daddy told her she was 76, she immediately started singing that song from The Music Man, “76 Trombones.” We joined in and sang along, infused by her child-like glee.

Mom wasn’t feeling well. She had a cold and also complained of aches in her knees and legs. Whether this was something sinister or muscles aching or a recurrence of past knee pain was hard to know. She couldn’t keep the pain in her mind when she wasn’t experiencing it and when she was feeling it, she couldn’t describe it beyond general hand gestures.

The day was grey and cloudy, and rain pattered against the sidewalk as we did our errands. The sea was unusually calm; we watched it as we ate lunch. When we got back to their apartment, the electricity was out. Walking up the three flights to their apartment exhausted both my parents. I kissed them both goodbye, helping Mom remove her glasses as she lay down, and walked briskly to the Netanya bus station.

It was a muted visit. I could easily have stayed home. But each time I am with them, I am reminded of how much my parents mean to me, how being with them brings me joy. When I called to tell them I’d reached home safely, Mom asked when I would be arriving. At least she enjoys my company. I’ll call later to wish her a happy birthday again and enjoy again her joyful innocence. And when I call tomorrow, I’ll take a page from Alice in Wonderland and celebrate Mom’s happy “unbirthday.” We could go on like this all year.

There was a time when I didn't like peanut butter. But then I became Israeli and was introduced to Bamba. If you've never tried this peanut butter snack, you are missing out. It has the texture of cheese curls and the taste of sweet peanut butter. These days Osem© sells Bamba Nougat which kids (and adults) either like or hate. We attended our son's purim play at his yeshiva last night where they made fun of Bamba Nougat. It is no where near as tasty as Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or even home made peanut butter chocolate cake.

Peanut Butter Swirl Cake

In honor of Mom’s birthday, I baked a peanut butter chocolate swirl cake. It’s really for me, but I guess I can share.

½ cup peanut butter

1/3 cup oil

1 cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

Chocolate chips (enough to cover top of cake)


Mix oil, sugars and peanut butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. When batter is formed, pat into greased pan then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Push chips gently into batter. Use enough chips to cover top of cake. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and using a knife, pull some of the peanut butter batter up from underneath the chocolate to give the cake a swirl pattern. Clean knife carefully with tongue. Return pan to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

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