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Takes the Cake

(by Connie Kinsey)

My waist-length hair is one of my most distinguishing features, and there have been incidents throughout the years that are story-worthy, but the one that takes the cake, literally, is this one.

I would have been about eight. Perhaps nine. I was a Girl Scout and learning to cook to earn my badge. I enjoyed it and often made something on my own. Usually a dessert of some sort. Cake. This time it was cake. Probably a Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker mix. Add eggs, oil, milk, and beat.

At this stage of life, I was severely hyperthyroid, cared for at Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii where my dad was stationed. It was an unusual medical condition for someone my age—I think the doctors enjoyed treating a young girl since they mostly saw wounded Vietnam combat personnel. The condition left me hyperactive and easily distracted.

I was making the cake—chocolate—merrily beating the lumps out of the batter with a hand mixer.


Next thing I knew, the metal beaters were wrapped around my hair and beating the side of my head. I screamed blue bloody murder. It didn’t occur to me to turn the mixer off. I just screamed.

My mother came running from the next room, assessed the situation, and pulled the plug.

“Oh, Connie,” she said.

It was a mess. I was a mess. My hair was tangled, snarled, and coated with chocolate. Truly an incident worthy of Lucy and Ethel. The beaters were pulling my hair, and it hurt. I howled.

My mother, the consummate Marine Corps officer’s wife, was calm, cool, and collected. She bent my head over the sink and attempted to rinse the chocolate batter out of my hair. The easiest thing to do would have been to cut the beaters out of my hair and give me a pixie haircut—all the rage in the late ‘60s. But my hair was a point of pride with me. My dad liked long hair, and I was a daddy’s girl.

Nope. It wasn’t even up for consideration. My mother didn’t even suggest it.

I don’t have much memory of the de-beatering, but it was done, one strand of hair at a time. I imagine it took hours. I sobbed for most of it, but eventually began to see the humor of the situation and began to giggle. The more I giggled, the more ridiculous my mother’s monologue got.

It all turned into a tender mother-daughter moment. We had precious few of those, as my mother and I were always so very different. Moments of criticism were plentiful; praise was not. She tended towards the stoic and disciplined while I was flamboyant and emotional. She would say, “You are so much like your father.” I never knew if that was criticism or not. She loved him intensely and prayed him through four tours of Vietnam while she was left to fend with two children on her own in places where she didn’t know a soul. I think she was often exasperated.

Mom and I finished making that cake. My hair got trapped in the beaters when I lifted them and not while in the bowl. So it wasn’t a chocolate hair cake. Later I frosted it. And later yet we ate it.

Giggling all the while, I’m sure.

From then on, I was hypervigilant when using the hand mixer. So much so that when I finally bought a KitchenAid stand mixer, I stood three feet away when I first began using it. I still have waist-length hair, and it’s still a point of pride with me, but I don’t think I have the patience to untangle it from a beater. My mother certainly doesn’t.

She has dementia now and is in her final years. I am her caretaker. It’s important that I remember the woman she was. The woman who painstakingly un-beatered my hair deserves my patience and understanding. I try.

That time my hair got caught in the beaters is one of our family stories. It’s important to tell the stories, to remember where we’ve been and to remember where we’re going.

And maybe to remember where we really want to be.


Connie Kinsey is a former military brat who has put down deep roots in a converted barn on a dirt road at the top of a hill in West Virginia. She lives with two dogs and a cat and is pursuing happiness, one cup of coffee at a time. Her award-winning writing has been published online and in print, most recently in the Hippocampus Writing Life. She is a spoken word artist and the Writer-in-Residence for the Museum of the American Military Family. She can be found at, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Box Cake

1. Buy a box cake mix at the grocery store.

2. Follow the direction on the back for either a layer cake or a sheet cake.

3. Keep the mixer beaters out of your hair.

4. Bake according to directions.

5. Frost with canned frosting or a favorite frosting recipe.

6. Serve and tell the stories it is important to remember.


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