I thought a lot about my mom today. Julie and her friend were talking about something that happened a few years ago, and they couldn’t remember what year it occurred. I said “well that was before my mom passed away, so it was early 2005.” It was strange how normal that statement felt to me. The fact that I could say “my mom passed away,” as easily as I could say “I am hungry,” really shocked me. Honestly, it made me sad that it didn’t hurt to say that anymore. No pain means I’m moving further away from her, and I don’t want to forget anything. As I was thinking about that for some reason this story popped into my head so I figured I’d record it.
This story isn’t necessarily a happy one, but it has a a special place in my heart.
My mom made the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. I am sure most people say that about their mothers or grandmothers, but based on the responses of others I know my moms were pretty close to the best out there. I was fortunate that she would make these cookies fairly regularly, but she also made lots of batches around Christmas time. Actually she would make all kinds of cookies in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but chocolate chip were always my favorite.
She didn’t really get around to making cookies as she normally would have in December of 2005. I couldn’t really blame her. The cancer had a stronghold in her brain, well actually in her whole body, so she had trouble with her balance as well as with her vision. She complained of some blurriness and double vision, but I am sure it was much worse than that. I would often catch her closing one eye and squinting as she tried to do the daily crossword puzzle in the paper. She was one tough cookie and rarely admitted pain or discomfort, but I know she was in a lot of both. Her balance was worsening very quickly as well. At the start of the month she was able to get around on her own with relative ease, but by the end of the first week she couldn’t really walk anywhere without Tom or I supporting her weight. Despite this, the Monday before she died (she died on Sunday the 18th of December) she decided she wanted to make some of her famous chocolate cookies.
Before that night my typical role in her cookie baking was to lick the batter and eat the super hot, moist cookies as they came out of the oven, but that night was different. I got to help. And I wanted to. It was truly a surreal moment. I knew it was one of those “last” moments. It was like my brain kicked into extra attention mode. I wanted to record every moment of it simply because I knew it would be the last time she’d be there with me making and eating her cookies.
I remember her leaning against the counter, rubbing her forehead and pointing to the top cabinet where her book of recipes were. I remember pulling out the bowls and the baking sheets, the butter and milk and sugar and toll house chocolate chips. I can see her now closing one eye to focus and reading her recipe aloud from the book, as if she were finally revealing an ancient secret. She called out “mix the flour, baking soda, salt…” When she didn’t start doing it, I quickly realized she wasn’t going to make cookies for me anymore, she was going to teach me how to make her cookies. I remember running the mixer, and splitting the beaters with her. She scooped out the batter and placed the cookies on the baking sheet. We all enjoyed the cookie smell filling the house as they baked. As we waited she showed me some other recipes in her massive recipe book (which my sister has).
When she pulled the first batch out of the oven, I was ready with a glass of milk. I finished off a few hot, moist, amazing chocolate chip cookies just I had done 23 years before that. My mom went to the couch with a few. I sat on the ground next to her at her feet, with my cookies in a paper towel and a big glass a milk in hand. She rubbed my head like only a mom could. I felt safe, secure, happy, loved, and full. I savored the moment.
This probably seems like a sad and odd story to share. I’m sure it seems strange too that I would write about this instead of the millions of other stories I have about my mom. But I really loved that moment. For my mom and I, it really felt like we were in the eye of the storm. Swirling around us was all the pain, the fear, the anger, the doubt, and the sheer exhaustion of what we were going through, but for about 15 minutes the storm clouds cleared and a “normal” moment appeared: A mom making her son some cookies. Some of her famous cookies.