Bake Bubba Happy

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

“Grandmas never run out of hugs or cookies” — Author Unknown

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My husband was racing down the highway, trying to make it through the border before it closed down completely due to the COVID-19 crisis. He had just picked up his mother who lived alone in France, a short 25-mile journey from the German border. He was bringing her back to our house, near the NATO base in Ramstein, Germany.

He had taken much more time than he had budgeted to load her things into the van, because she had insisted on taking her whole pantry of food supplies along with her. I rolled my eyes when he told me about it over the phone. She is strong-willed and not always the easiest person to get along with, so there was no sense arguing with her about it. We would have to grin and bear it over the next few months that we planned to be living together. Sigh.

My mother-in-law is a pack rat who has always kept a vast supply of non-perishable food items in her house, along with vegetables that would last for a long time. A cellar full of potatoes had saved her family from starvation in France during the Second World War, a lesson she never forgot. The Coronavirus epidemic brought back flashbacks of the desperation of the war years. So, she doesn’t take food storage lightly. When my husband went to pick her up, she insisted on taking all the goods with her. Now it was questionable whether they’d make it through the border before the total lockdown.

Biting my nails, I finally received a text from my husband, saying that they had made it through, just as the guards were shutting down the border. I was relieved that they would be able to make it back to our house and that they had managed to load up all of Denise’s stuff. We kept a reasonably well stocked pantry at home, but it paled in comparison to hers. All the extra foodstuffs would come in handy during a long isolation period.

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Germany-France border

Our black Labrador, Bubba, would be thrilled when Denise arrived. He considered her his grandma, and was always completely spoiled with treats and snuggles during her stays with us. He had been less than pleased with us lately, since we were already rationing the treats for ourselves and all of our pets during the lockdown. He could also sense our overall level of high anxiety.

As soon as Grandma Denise arrived, Bubba ran to greet her and jumped for joy, almost knocking her to the ground with his enthusiasm. His tail was wagging so hard that half his body jerked back and forth. She was his person. She hugged his scruffy neck and tossed him a couple of snacks, which he scarfed in the air before they hit the ground. Then they walked inside together like the two old buddies that they were, while my husband and I stood there watching, before tediously lugging box after box of groceries indoors.

The next morning, we awoke to a wonderful aroma wafting from the kitchen. PANCAKES! Yum! I could hardly wait. Throwing on our robes, we made haste to the kitchen to get them while they were hot off the griddle. We needn’t have hurried. Bubba was already there in the kitchen, leaning his head on Grandma’s leg, as she flipped his special doggie gluten-free buckwheat pancakes. She had even made him a tasty peanut butter sauce as a topping. Bubba’s tail was beating the kitchen cupboards like a drum. In this new age of social distancing, it was delightful to see them snuggling. We would just have to wait for our favorite pancakes to be made afterwards, but it would be worth it. We had to admit that Denise was an excellent cook, certainly better than we were. Bubba was bringing out the best in her.

As many people have learned during the Coronavirus shutdown, it is tempting to have extra snacks when staying around the house more than usual. While working from home wearing gym clothes, it is easy not to notice weight gain because of the loose-fitting clothing. Putting on the Coronavirus 15 (lbs) has already become a thing. In an attempt to prevent it from developing into a huge problem for us, we made a point of not stocking up on many extra snacks, but were regretting it now.

So, the sweet aroma of cookies coming from the kitchen later that day had us moaning in anticipation and soon scooting in that direction. We arrived in time to see Denise sitting with Bubba’s head in her lap, with our other rescue dogs lying at her feet, all patiently waiting for her homemade doggie biscuits to bake. It looked like she was baking enough to last them throughout the whole pandemic. Happily, a couple of trays of cookies for humans were on the kitchen counter, waiting for their turn in the oven. We were beginning to see who had priority here, though we were happy to wait for our share.

We always had a ragtag mix of stray cats around that called our place home. Bubba was a friendly giant who loved all other creatures and had continually tried to befriend them. But they were generally wary of our dogs and stayed aloof. Now, however, they were curious about the wonderful aromas from the kitchen and the special relationship Bubba had with Grandma, the source of all the delicious goodies. Soon they were circling around her legs as well as Bubba’s, as she continued to bake goodies for everyone in our place while he stuck to her like glue.

Bubba couldn’t have been happier. His humans were all in one place and always home now, including his favorite person on the planet. The other dogs looked up to him because he had such a special relationship with the person who baked the treats. And he was now finally befriended by the elusive cats for the same reason. His exuberant disposition had managed to unite us all.

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We were happy again too. The lockdown gave us a break from our hectic lives, while working from home allowed us to become reacquainted with each other. Our relationship with my mother-in-law was quickly improving as well, because we had finally slowed down enough to appreciate her, once again. We also saw the wisdom of her planning and forethought when it came to keeping supplies, not to mention the enjoyment we derived from the fantastic meals she put together. Not only had she baked Bubba happy, she had melted all of our hearts in a kitchen filled with love.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY
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