As I set out to decimate my pristine kitchen with flour, granules of turbinado, bits of eggshell I’m sure to have to fish out of the mixing bowl, and oblong rings of vanilla extract where the messy overpour ran down the sides of the dark plastic bottle, I see a gauzy Christmas scene in the reflection of a course raw sugar crystal. Two blondes, one great, one small….
Life is a trail mix of smiles and tears, always. But see, here’s the thing. We can take these small rubies with us from each and every portion of our lives. Even when there are tears, we can choose to put them down, and let the good feed us – an unending harvest of vitamin joy that never needs tilling or tending, and never dies back in a frost.
If you asked me I’d say I had a wonderful childhood. The truth is, my parents fought frequently but more than that, they didn’t exchange affections. I remember the slamming doors and words I was too new to know were bad. Thunderous frustrations, shattering cascades of tears… All the wrong words borne of anger and flung like bolas – too many of the right ones left forever unsaid…
But I didn’t know any different, I found oblivious joy in it all. As a kid, your family is your normal, because normal is measured by our perception of a day, we measure what we see, seeing becomes knowing. Questions that children ask aren’t of this color.
I remember the cookies. December after December, no matter the words in all of the days between, my mother would bake him cookies. My hardened adult heart sees not motive but love, the embers of what was, what she remembered it to be, when they were so young, two smitten kids in the south hills of Pittsburgh, what beauty and naive innocence it surely sprang from.
They were Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies with her secret flourish: shredded coconut flakes. We’d stand together, she and I, flour in our blonde ponytails and taste-tested chocolate chips emphasizing the corners of our mouths, and we’d bake. Mixing and measuring and kneading and forming, dropping the vanilla spiked fruits of our labor by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets, baking at 350 until golden brown and scrumptious, burning the roofs of our mouths on the first still-puffy batch.
When they’d cooled, those that survived our meticulous taste test were layered into a box that we’d dressed in festive paper, tucked in snug with wax paper blankets, a hand written note, and sealed with a ribbon. Ready to go to work with Dad.
A certain blue-eyed boy pilfering himself a piping hot plate of the season’s first Chocolate Almond Buttons…
And now here I stand, a woman in my own kitchen, mixing and measuring and kneading and forming… letting the smells take me and sail me back in time.
These cookies have memories, you see. They take a foot from my height and cynicism from my years, and all at once, she’s standing here with me, and we’re baking for all the “work men”… RX-7 Rusty and Mean Dean and Maintenance Mike.
Because even a cookie can remember…
Merry Christmas my friends.