>My mother was meticulous about her cookies. They were iced, glazed and crystalized like an old-fashioned winter scene. They were perfectly “tidy.” No broken crumbs, no smudges, and no deformed shapes. An entire Christmas scene from Norman Rockwell transformed into a plate of flour and sugar. When my brother and I came in from playing in the snow, we had no idea what a treasure those were, or how much we would ache for them later.
Memories have a way of erasing the unpleasant, (she made far too many cookies and sweets) and elevating the mediocrity of something as susie-alantrivial as a Christmas cookie to a level of enchantment. After all, can’t you just buy perfectly-made cookies at the bakery?
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how our mind filters out the past, shaving the bad from the reality to produce polished, pristine and flawless memories. Yet, it is predictable. This is the version we tell our own children, as if it were really true. Our own little fabricated fairy tales. Yet, maybe the way our mind filters our reality, is what is real. What we remember, and how we remember it, truly is what endures – because it does.
As women, much of our lives, more than we care to admit, is centered on cleaning up after someone else. We shove the messes out of the way, cleaning them up as fast as we can, so that we can get to the good stuff; the real stuff. But, the messes keep coming back. Once we turn our back on one, another pops up. We never do make it to the good stuff. Or do we?
recipeWe simply want to put our heads on the pillow at night and know that we made an impact on our children, and our community, and our friends. Especially around the holidays, we want the house to be perfectly decorated, with crafts we made ourselves, cookies we baked from scratch, and advent activities that capture the magic of the season every single night.
But the reality is we stand in the midst of the loud clamoring of chaos. There is, in fact, a huge mess in the mudroom. Cleaning the mudroom zaps our energy, our zeal, and sends us off to bed with a to-do list that lingers, and a heavy heart, that we are missing something; if only we had more time to do it.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that maybe the “impact” we want so anxiously to make is already embedded, already woven directly into the tedious, the mundane, and the monotonous?
I am fairly certain that my mother never dreamed that the coco-stained recipe card she wrote and stuffed into a tin would evoke such melancholy in her daughter, some 45 years later. Instead, she probably looked at the cards and thought, “What a mess. Those look awful. I must find the time to re-copy them on new cards, so that I can pass them on to my daughter someday. Maybe, I’ll put them in a nice, new album.” I’m so glad she didn’t.
Yet, it reminds me of my own messes. I’m thinking about our digital photo album, and what a mess it is, and how I need to sit down and organize all of those files, and get it all pristine and tidied up.
I am also just as certain that a clothespin will not evoke a memory in my son one snowy day in the future, when his own son says, “Daddy, my mittens are wet.” My son might remember how I used wooden clothespins to hang the mittens on a wire I strung up across the fireplace, and how the wire kept falling off. As the image flitters across his mind, maybe a tear will fall on his cheek as he remembers how deeply he was loved.
Wouldn’t knowing that a humble clothespin, a symbol of our labor, might also just hint at our evanescence be enough to bring us peace? Knowing that the time we spent taking care of the necessary functions of life, restoring order and cleaning this mess and that, was never wasted? That our struggle to catch-up brings a gift that extends far beyond the glazed, crystalized and tidy old-fashioned winter memories we are trying to create?
None of us has the gift of being able to know, to see, from where we sit today, which of the tasks we do will make an impact. But there is a nugget of gold somewhere in the laundry, the cooking and the cleaning, and we touch it every day. As women, we have never had more of an opportunity to create intransience than when are doing the routine, the dull and the wearisome; the art of creating a life. I think this could is enough for me…