Zebra Tales
Yuen Ning '21

Post-Isolation Mother’s Day

My Fifth Form spring is perhaps one of the strangest and most memorable terms I’ll ever have at Groton. On one day, I was on the Circle, knee deep in end-of-term assignments; a couple days later, I was in New York, scrambling to buy a plane ticket to fly back to Shanghai.
In light of mandatory quarantine and missing my friends on the Circle, one priceless gift many of us have received is time with our families. I can’t possibly think of another circumstance where people, quite literally, would be required to stay home and do nothing. In such bewildering times, I decided to pick up baking – a passion of mine since a young very age but one I never had the time to explore. Of course, I wasn’t alone. Quarantine bake-offs posted all over social media inspired me and pushed me away from the couch and into the kitchen.

After isolation regulations had been lifted, my friend Carolyn and I decided to do something special for Mother’s Day. It was a lovely Sunday morning, and Carolyn had already arrived at our house, busy looking through the fridge.  I logged into my Instagram account on my laptop, and loaded Domonique Ansel’s page (the genius French chef who created Cronuts). Domonique’s IGTVs were almost like Zoom classes – they made handy tutorials for beginner bakers. As we watched Domonique bake his signature chocolate cake, we measured the ingredients and prepared them in separate bowls. Carolyn took charge of the cake batter, and I made a dark chocolate ganache. But a cake wasn’t enough for a gathering of two families. I quickly whisked egg yolks and sugar, while watching a pot of heavy cream simmer over the stove – crème brûlée is indeed my go-to foolproof dessert. It was a hectic day in the kitchen, but all the work was worthwhile for a single moment: pouring the rich and velvety chocolate ganache onto the cake and watching it slowly ooze down the sides, forming an (almost) flawless mirror glaze.

Around a small table with a jade green Lazy Susan, my family and Carolyn’s ate heartily, laughed under dim lights, and gently cracked torched sugar layers on the crème brûlées. Only when our moms cut into the decadent chocolate cake we made did I realize that it had been three years since I last celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom, in person. I looked around at the blissful scene and wondered what the odds were for this to happen again. Who would’ve thought that one of the effects of the pandemic could bring two families together for a Mother’s Day celebration?

Whether picking up baking in the spring of my Fifth Form year was a wise decision, I can’t say for sure. But lingering on the potential outcomes of the future is somewhat pointless, because the effects of the pandemic has shown me that they will always be changing, as will we. It is better to embrace the present, no matter what it holds. In time, when we turn around to look back upon our pasts, perhaps everything will line up and make sense.