One of my favorite adult memories of Xmas is baking cookies. Coincidentally, one of my favorite childhood memories is helping my mom bake cookies. I guess it's not so coincidental. You see, I have this need for perfection, and I was naturally good at baking, so one year I decided to make my own cookies that would blow everyone away, and I am pretty sure they did.
It was a testament to my freedom, my independence from my parents, my creativity and my skills, all rolled into one, and I loved every fucking minute of it. Maybe that's why it's been so hard for me the past couple of years. I haven't made cookies since my husband left me. It's been three years since I've made cookies. This might not seem like anything to you, but it's a big deal to me... and I will tell you why.
Every year, since the first year I started making cookies, I had a routine. That routine was mine, my kitchen was mine, my cookies were mine. I owned it. I would look up recipes online and decide which cookies to make. They were usually the most ridiculously involved ones, because, again, I was a perfectionist who would not be outdone. I had one simple recipe, and those were the best, the peanut butter thumbprints with a hershey kiss in the middle. Everyone loved them, after I stopped making them, for a few years, everyone asked for them. I even made some for a wedding 2 years ago, but not for the holidays. Eventually, everyone stopped asking. This saddens me (again, I will get to that and why this is such a big deal to me that I am going off my obnoxious beaten path of humor writing).
I would plan for days when I was going to bake cookies, and everyone was to leave me alone. On cookie day, I would go to the grocery store and purchase my ingredients, one of the rare times that the grocery store doesn't make me an anxious, frustrated mess, capable of homicide with a shopping cart. I'd then stop at the liquor store for a bottle of champagne. When I got home, I would set everything up, then I would put the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the kitchen CD player, pour my champagne into a ludicrously fancy etched, iridescent blue flute (I remember always filling the glass too much and having to suck the foamy bubbles off the top) and get to work. Every now and then, while cookies were in the oven, I would wander out into the dining room to admire the white-lighted tree with the burgundy velvet bows at the end of its boughs, woodsy, rustic ornaments, golden bulbs and aromatic pine scent.
That was always my favorite part of the Holidays: the decorations. My husband and I coordinated everything. A rustic, gold and burgundy theme with rich fabrics and sparkling metallic trims. It turned our little cape cod into a slightly magical retreat. And it was mine.
Actually baking the cookies was a serious chore. Oftentimes, I would be up until all hours of the night before finally crumpling into bed with achy feet and back, but not before I admired all of my handy work, beautifully laid out in huge aluminum turkey pans and eventually covered in tinfoil. There were usually 3 of these pans, filled to the brim with assorted cookies.
I always felt accomplished. ALWAYS. This is, sadly, one of the fews things in my life that has ever given me that feeling, without fail.
The next day, I would wake and clean my mess, without a hint of dread or complaint. That mess was the result of a huge accomplishment, there was no need of complaint. And everyone always loved those damned cookies. It's almost like childbirth, lots of pain, a huge mess, but completely worth every push and stitch (or dishes and mopping, if you will).
When my marriage fell apart, I felt completely defeated. I stop baking cookies, bought a fake tree and always hated cleaning. You see, I had my own little domestic routine. I was the one who made the best goddamn cookies and everyone wanted them. I made them with my own hands, with ingredients that I purchased, in my own kitchen of my own house that I worked my ass off to buy and keep. I had my own family. I was the wife who made the best friggin cookies in the family. Even though people asked me for them after that, I could never bring myself to go through the motions, because I knew it would hurt too bad, to be doing it on my own, even though I had always forbade my husband to help me or even come near me while I was making The Cookies.
Since my divorce, and the death of my father in the same year, I feel like my life, and my drive to accomplish, has gone downhill. I felt like I was no longer normal. I felt like I had the white fucking picket fence and someone came in with a fucking bulldozer and smashed it to pieces.
A friend invited me to a party this weekend. Usually, I just pick something up, but he told me not to bring anything. Then I thought about The Cookies. It turns out, this group of friends has become very much like family to me. I was driven to make The Cookies. Instead of looking upon this task with dread, I found myself wanting my old routine, my old tradition, that was solely my own.
So here I am, ingredients on the counter of my mother's house, glass of champagne (in a less pretentious glass, because the flutes are packed, but don't think for a moment I didn't contemplate popping over to Target to see if they had any) The Trans-Siberian Orchestra on the kitchen CD player, and the same feeling of excited determination to make the best goddamn cookies.
I don't need a husband or a "traditional" family to be happy. I don't need to own my own little cape cod with hardwood floors. I don't need, nor do I want, to be "normal".
I am going to make The motherfucking Cookies, and they are going to kick ass.
Happy Solstice, my Fellow Cohorts in World Domination.