I have stopped counting the days before we leave for Serbia, and started counting the hours. My daytimer has a myriad of lists on different pages with most of the items checked or scratched off. I wake up in the morning with my heart doing crazy somersaults as the Reisefieber sets in. My mind is set on perpetual multi-tasking mode as I juggle the necessities of work (as tedious and forgettable as they can be), packing, obtaining everything absolutely crucial for the almost twenty-four hour flight, panicking over Zoe’s diabetes, and fretting over symbolic, but important gifts for friends and family.

I am excited and apprehensive, anxious and exhilarated, worried and giddy with anticipation of this trip. The girls started packing a month ago, sorting their clothes, separating the items they outgrew that will travel with them for their cousins who are yet to reach five feet. They are beyond excited and their questions border on manic. I don’t want to take that glint out of their eyes, and at times I just need to lock myself in a room and chant happy place, happy place for a moment.

Our bed is full of packing stuff and Husband is relegated to sleeping on the living room couch. Every day that brings us closer to the departure, the pile grows and stuff accumulates. Three girls with three suitcases seems a bit shy for a month long vacation, but we have to manage. In the end, it’s only “stuff”.

It has been three years since I went home, and many things are not the same as they were. The old concrete sidewalks in the yard have been replaced by pale green tiles. The staircase to our old domain has been painted. The kitchen walls are not white any more. There is a ping-pong table in the driveway which is going to stir up some memories from the days when we were the ones wielding the paddles. My brother and his family, who live in a smaller house in the same yard, have recently bought an Irish Setter and named her Lana, just like me (I am still trying to figure out if it was out of affection, or if someone has found some satisfaction in scolding the dog with a Bad Lana! and a smack to the muzzle).

In the three years that I have not seen Mother or any of my friends, I have changed, too. Mothers do not like to see their children age, and I still have to color my hair to hide the grey that brazenly takes over my chestnut waves, and apply a mask to try to smooth away a few wrinkles that unexpectedly appeared on my face. I have to paint my toe nails to hide the ugly splotches that show up with time, and allow my hands to rest so that the veins do not stand out, engorged and blue from stress. I want her to see me content, glowing with happiness, forever young and indestructible, immune to the passing of the years.

Mother’s health is failing and she is in a lot of pain. This summer, I will have to take control of the household and relieve her of that burden. I am looking forward to the routine of first morning cup of Turkish coffee with my mother followed by a walk to the market, the bakery, and the butcher. I will have to handle the challenges of her kitchen, a place that has become completely unfamiliar over the years. I will have to adjust to the European rhythm and start preparing the main meal around noon, as both of my parents have reached that age that demands an extremely strict and punctual schedule.

Our house is turned upside down, with suitcases loitering in every available corner. I am frantically checking off the items from the lists, and trying to empty the freezer, the pantry, and the fridge. The meals these days are light, quick, and mostly vegetarian. I am completely engrossed in our long  inter-continental trip, but my mind inevitably takes me home way ahead of time, and I miss my mom more then ever.

I did not want to leave the ripe, fragrant peaches languishing in the fruit bowl as Husband is allergic. Acting on an impulse, I baked a quick cake that Mother used to make frequently, utilizing any fruits that were available. The peaches were soft and smooth, juicy and bright yellow underneath the skin. The pit detached cleanly, leaving behind just the rosy-red indentations in the flash. I cut them into thin wedges and placed them on top of the batter. As the cake finished baking, the smell coming out of the oven was enough to transport me to Mother’s house much faster than the Virgin Atlantic flight we are taking tomorrow.

QUICK PEACH CAKE

This cake can be made with any fruit that’s in season. My favorites are sour cherries, apples, and plums.

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 250 gr sugar
  • 150 ml sunflower oil
  • 150 ml milk
  • 300 gr flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 ripe peaches, pealed and cut into wedges

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180C).

Oil the square metal pan. Beat the eggs and sugar, and add oil and milk. Mix until smooth.  Combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix to combine. Pour into the prepared pan. Place the peaches on top and bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown (when done, a knife inserted in the middle will come out clean).