It was a dusty old box that had many generations of tape on it with her familiar chicken scratching handwriting cultivated from years of abuse at the hands of nuns who believed that lefties were evil. My son, dying to know what was inside as he shook it up and down and heard metal rattling, managed to decipher the letters and slowly sounded out the first word.
"C- C- OOOO. C-OOOO. K. IH. EH. Mama is that a blend?" I held my breath as I answered. "Yeah baby, I-E together at the end of a word says EEEEE." I was somewhere else. About sounding out age myself. My mind was swirling like the flour in the air as my little hands banged together with glee while she rolled out the dough.
Pull it together. "Cookie? Cookie!!", he squealed with delight. "A box of cookies, open it mama, open it!"
Not now. Not here.
I thanked Captain Jeff for keeping the box all these months and tucked it under my arm as we crunched on the carpet of brown leaves strewn across his lawn. I was ready for the box to come home. But I wasn't sure if I was ready to open it.
It sat again. Tape glistening in the sun out in the cockpit of the boat. It still didn't feel right. But then the rains came, and the box had to come in. And a small space like a boat is too cramped to share with a secret. So without much fanfare, while Zach and Doug were busy reading and I was mid-stream tidying up the boat I reached for the box and tore off the tape. The sound stopped The Amazing Adventures of Edward Tulane mid-sentence. A little pair of hands found their way on top of mine in a nanosecond as we pulled back the soft flaps of cardboard.
The smell hit me first. Was it the smell of our old house? Or the smell of the metal? Or the smell of holidays being unpacked after an eternity in storage. It made me dizzy, not in a sick sort of way, but in a heady intoxicating way that made the room disappear as I spun through time and space through my nostrils. The little hands brought me back, and the little voice woke me up. "Are we making cookies? Hooray!! COOKIES!"
My mom LOVED to be in the kitchen. That woman cooked and baked constantly even while holding down a full time job. She didn't just love to feed her family, she needed to do it. She stayed up nights making soups and lasagnas and berry purees and freezing them for us to eat when she couldn't be home to make it fresh. I guess the fact that I inherited 99% of her looks flip flopped and gave me about 1% of her personality. I can't stand being in the kitchen and I do it just to keep my family going and to bring up my boy in the most well rounded way I know how. But I was spoiled by fresh, home grown, hand made food so my home grown taste constantly wreaks havoc with my loathing of the process. I want all that goodness she gave me, I just don't want to be the one to make it.
But now I'm the mama. And I have the cookie cutters. And I have a little person who needs that goodness. We start to go through the box and sort them out. Zach is busy making the cat battle with the reindeer while I quietly finger the flower, the angel, and the tree. "Mama why are you crying? Did you cut your finger?"
"Mama is just remembering," Doug says softly.
And some help. The email came back from my step-dad a day later:
"You must be referring to the Butter Confekt cookies that my great-grandmother used to bake...
Here is the recipe.
BUTTER CONFEKT COOKIES
5 eggs 2-¼ C. sugar
1 lb. butter Grated rind of lemon
¼ tsp cream of tartar 7 to 8 C. flour
½ tsp salt
Ingredients should be at room temperature. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and lemon rind. Add two or three cups of the flour and then mix cream of tartar into the next cup. Continue adding flour, changing to hand mixing when the dough gets stiff. When about 7-1/2 cups have been added, collect the dough together, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (It will keep there for several days.)