Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baking Again

I'm baking tonight for the fourth night in a row! Good times. No Pineapple Upside Down Cake tonight--there's plenty of that left over in the fridge. Tonight I'm making chocolate chip cookies for a funeral. There was a 94-year old lady in my ward who died recently and the Relief Society sisters are doing all the food for the service. I thought it was going to be on Saturday, when I would have time to cook something real, but it's going to be Friday, and because of my work schedule, I'll need to take my cookies over tomorrow evening. So cookies seemed the easiest to transport. I'll drop them off on my way home from work tomorrow. But besides all that, I love to make chocolate chip cookies. I've made them so many times since age 6, when my grandmother taught me, that I have the recipe memorized to the point where I can do tricks with it. For example, tonight after forming the balls of cookie dough, I rolled them in the superfine almonds that I had leftover from my pineapple cake adventures. The result is a crunchy roasted nut exterior with a soft delicious chocolate chip center. One of these days I'm going to experiment with red pepper and chocolate and make a spicy chocolate chip Mexican cookie.

Baking chocolate chip cookies tonight is helping me feel closer to my grandmother, too. She's 89 and not doing well. For the past year or so she has been living in a care-home that provides her with 24-hour care. Her memory is fleeting, her life force waning. I remember when she used to spend her free time making doll clothes for the local children's hospital. And I remember how she used to write letters to me while I was in college, letters that mainly listed all the food she made that week, and what teenagers got into horrible accidents around the Logan canyon. But after a while her eyesight dimmed and she couldn't sew or write much at all. I wrote to her less and less, wondering if I was causing her to strain her eyes. Now I regret not writing more often.

I don't have any things that my grandmother left me. There are too many of us grandchildren, I suppose, to inherit much from a small town dairy-farmer's wife. Besides that, I think my grandparents Viking heritage gave them both a love of the pyre. Every time they moved or even after a spring cleaning, they would build a big bonfire to consume unwanted furniture, clothes, and all the other day to day ephemera that a life accumulates. Once someone must have convinced them to give a few things away instead, and I was the recipient of a night-light made completely of seashells formed in the shape of Cinderella's coach, with petrified sea-horses pulling it. It enchanted the 9-year-old me, but at some point before I reached high school it must have found a new home. Luckily, my grandmother did write down a short history of her life, and I have that, along with all her letters, to keep. Included are stories of her childhood, courtship, and life as a young married woman in the 1950s. In pictures of her, I see a resemblance to myself.

My dad was in Utah this week and visited my grandma, his mother. Her sons gave her a blessing together. My dad said that the words were inspired, and the feeling was mutually peaceful. My grandmother lives, but tenuously. I wonder if soon she will reach out and join her husband, in that place beyond the veil. Thoughts like these make me stop and think of eternal things, wonderful things, sad things and things that are joyful, too. So I think, I wonder, I roll out cookie dough balls, and I bake.

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