Quiet in the kitchen, except for the sound of my fingers skooshing through flour and egg, sugar, spices; soft-thumping against the sides of the stainless bowl. These cookies only come together by touch. They resist the spoon. Fall comes, and it smells of cinnamon and clove, candied ginger minced fine under the shiny, sharp edge of my knife. The recipe has aged softly over time, the words now faint against the nutmeg-shaded paper, but the truth is that I’ve made these cookies so many times I only pull out the recipe for its history, for the feel of the paper–more like flour now than wood pulp pressed and bleached and dried flat.
As a girl, I made these cookies for my dad, thinking of what he might say when I appeared beside him, steam rising from my outstretched hand, the sweet offering still so warm I could feel the heat through the quarter-folded paper towel. And now, I skoosh my fingers through the dough, lifting, turning, pressing, and I think of my children. I imagine the way Adam will weave around the table where the wire racks wait, the expression on his face as he tries to remember the words he needs. May I eat a cookie, please? His mouth will move before the words come.
I mix the dough until it comes together in my hands and I can no longer distinguish sun-colored egg yolks from earth-brown cloves. I don’t bake because I have extra time nor because any urgency compels the activity. I bake for love, for blessings prepared in advance, because the most important things are not always the most urgent. The dormancy of Winter will always be preceded by the Autumn harvest and followed by the brilliant rebirth of Spring, like two mighty, loving arms around the chill and doubt and difficulty of living. Even in the middle of the cold months, we are safe-wrapped in blankets—the warm kind, soft-touching our skin, and the icy ones–covering the bare dirt and the dead, waiting seeds with light. Always, we live insulated by what God has prepared in advance, even on the bleak, blind days that leave us gasping for breath.
Zoe will exclaim from the doorway. The moment she walks in with the sunlight, that warm breeze moving through her hair and brightening her cheeks. “OH. It smells so good in here,” she’ll say, and then when she finds her way to the cookies, “Are these for us to eat?” as though I would tease her with only the fragrance or could create some good thing without wanting her to taste of it. She’ll stand wide-eyed beside the racks, watching the way the sugar crystals glitter, and she’ll smile over the surprise and ask, “How many?”
The way I know her makes me smile, standing in the quiet kitchen with a sweet lump of cookie dough between the palms of my hands, listening to the tick of ovens warming. Imagining the way my children will receive my gift is almost as delicious to me as I know the cookies will taste on their tongues.
I roll the dough into balls and toss them carefully in a bowl of sugar, thinking about the way that Riley will press her finger over a single crumb left on the paper towel in front of her and lift it carefully to her lips, as though the blessing is too rich to miss even a single morsel. She’ll make me feel as though this simple effort matters more than the dozens of things I’ve yet to do, just because she savors what I have made for her. She’ll feel the love now moving through my hands. I’ll see it light her eyes and hear it in the way she laughs, even before she says, “Mmmm. Mom, these cookies are delicious.” She says the same thing about everything I make. This too makes me smile, as I lift a cookie sheet into the oven and imagine the way the balls of dough will melt and spread and steam.
I stand at the sink and move my fingers under the warm water, watching soap bubbles gather in mountainous heaps around my hands. What joy I feel knowing that something I have prepared in advance for my children can bring them such happiness after a stretching, growing day, a day that took more courage than will be obvious in the small things they say. It’s beautiful that something so simple—a cookie on a paper towel—will feel like the touch of my hands, the skooshing of my fingers into the hours they were away; that my gift will remind them that I love them. And even more beautiful to me is the way I know they will receive that gift.
I don’t know what it is about washing dishes, but so often, that’s right where God scrubs my thinking clean, and suddenly I feel like I’m walking through the door of His house, my head all touched with His light, and I can smell the scent of all the things He’s prepared in advance for me (rest; an unspoiled, unfading inheritance; a place), all the gifts He went ahead of me to ensure. And I wonder if the way I receive His gifts right here, right in this moment makes Him giddy over the anticipation of what it will be like then, when I find my way to those wonders? I wash that stainless bowl, and this is what shines—that His blessings should move me to talk to Him, even when I find words so out of reach. And this, this too—that truly I want to treasure every crumb of His goodness, and that I want never to grow so dull that I am not still surprised that He would offer me such sweet measures of Grace.