It has been several weeks now since Charlotte began full-day kindergarten. We have settled into a new routine, and I have to admit, I am enjoying it. As I complete the various tasks that have to be done every day (making lunches, preparing dinner, tidying up the house, etc), I am sometimes overcome with the strong sense that I am channeling my mom. A lot of my childhood memories involve watching her or helping her as she went about these household tasks. When Charlotte gets home from school, I clean out her lunch bag right away and begin preparing her lunch for the next day- just like my mom did. Charlotte sits at the kitchen table and has a snack and tells me stories about her day as I do this, and I’m just hit with memories of myself as child with my mom.
Our house was always tidy and clean when I was growing up, and I’m making an effort to keep our house tidy, too, especially since I’m at home at the moment. I take time here and there out of the day to do things like clean the bathroom or sweep or gather up laundry. I do it when I have a spare moment, just like Mom did. Now, let’s be clear, here- I don’t do everything the way she did. The laundry does not get promptly folded as it comes out of the dryer. The house does not get vacuumed several times a week. As for ironing- well, I don’t even know where my iron is right now. But I’m trying, and it makes me feel close to her as I do these things.
One of the things that makes me feel closest to her is baking cookies. I will always associate chocolate chip cookies with happy times growing up. The sound of the beaters being banged against the glass mixing bowl never failed to get my sister and I running toward the kitchen. It was the signal that the batter was mixed and we each got a beater coated with cookie dough to lick. I helped Mom bake her chocolate chip cookies in some of my earliest memories. At first, I would stand on a kitchen chair at the counter so that I could reach the mixing bowl and I would help add the ingredients as she mixed it up. As I got older, I was given more responsibilities- measuring ingredients, cracking eggs, spooning the batter onto the cookie sheet, and eventually, I was given the highest honour of being allowed to mix the batter up myself with the electric mixer. It was like the torch was being passed from her to me.
Everything about making cookies now reminds me of her. The order in which I add the ingredients; the feel of cutting through the shortening with a sharp knife; the way I taste the batter and determine, based on the taste and texture, if it needs more flour; waiting for the first batch to come out of the oven to see how they turned out; and of course, the taste of that first warm cookie with still-melted chocolate chips- it’s all her. Mom used to always say that no two batches ever turned out the same. That may have been true, but they were always delicious.
When I make cookies, I feel her presence so strongly. It is a crippling paradox, though- it feels like she is everywhere, all around me, and yet she is conspicuously NOT here, and I realize that, and it makes me miss her so much, I can’t breathe. But then I taste that cookie, and I see Charlotte’s face when she tastes it, and I am comforted. These cookies are a gift from her to me; just as I hope they will be from me to my girls. We are not just baking cookies, we are baking memories.
So today I am going to bake some cookies, and I am going to feel my mom with me. Later, I will give Charlotte a bath with Avon’s Soft Pink bubble bath- another scent that evokes strong memories of my mom- and I know she will be with us then, too.