How humbling it is that an inanimate object can outlast a living, breathing human being, one that is masterfully designed from complex tissues, organs and systems, one that can hold the extraordinary ability to think, create, feel. How humbling that something simple can outlast our dearest loved one.
As I rummage through my bin of dollar store cookie cutters in search of the Christmas shapes, I unearth, as I do every year, the tree-shaped cutter my Mom used religiously until her last Christmas in 1992. It has a dignity all its own amidst the other shiny plastic apparatuses. I pick it up, and my fingers sense a certain delicacy amidst the sturdiness of an item reminiscent of a time when things were made to last. In its dents and bruises, I see pieces of my childhood… The stand mixer that on Tuesdays would mix a batch of cookies to last 16 kids for a week …The farm kitchen draped in only the stark light of a winter afternoon… I see a white bowl. Creamed butter. Chilled dough. A wooden rolling-pin… And I see Mom finally pulling down the Christmas cutters from a too-high shelf after a month’s worth of anticipation and an afternoon of floury messes.
On this day some 30 years later, a similar scene plays out in my kitchen… A new-fangled mixer and a white bowl …Store-bought butter that functions much the same and forms into a cool pliable dough that will yield to a wooden rolling pin …The same winter light strikes the dull metal object in my hand.
Mom, is it time to make the shapes now? An eager face and a little body sprung with excitement.
Almost! First, we have to roll the dough. Weathered hands plop a plump mass onto a powdered countertop.
Can I do the rolling? Strong arms reach around her, tempering the action of the rolling pin.
Now, it’s time Mom? I’m going to do the Christmas tree!!! She grabs the cookie cutter and stamps it in the middle of the flattened dough.
Make sure you keep the shapes close together. A big hand slows a zealous smaller one. They carefully place the perfectly shaped trees on a cookie sheet.
Time to put them in the oven! A dusted cookie cutter is cast aside on the countertop. A daughter peers into the oven again and again.
Are they done yet, Mom?
It seems that inanimate objects are not the only things that can transcend time. My daughter’s impatience is my own. I am filled with the excitement of a child who has waited for a special tradition—one of the only ones they have ever known—to unfold in its own magical time. I am transported by her unadulterated capability to experience joy in the present moment while warily eyeing the pile of dishes in the sink. In a single moment, I am the mother in a farmhouse and the daughter in a modern kitchen, the bearer and creator of a story that, too, will outlast the breath in my body.
Can we do the icing now!?