at the foot of the tree

“C’mon, it looks pretty down here.”

The room—once filled with giggles and chatter—was still.  The quiet must have crept in while I’d been preoccupied with picking up doll clothes, straightening books, and restoring order to a once spotless house. I didn’t notice, until I saw her curled up at the foot of the Christmas tree.

Mary lie there, wilted from her simply electrifying performance: hours of directing make-believe action,  out-singing Belle and the cup and the Beast two times through, and, all the while, charming her way into my heart.

I stayed with Mary while her mom went to dinner with dad, and, later, sang at Midnight Mass. I’d never heard her sing, but people said that she, too, gave an electrifying performance.  When she lifted Ave Maria to the heavens, it sifted back down to sooth everyone who gathered there.

And I’d been entrusted with the care of her little girl on Christmas eve.

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square chocolate chip cookies

GRAMMA'S SQUARE COOKIES2

My Gramma used to make square chocolate chip cookies. They were her signature fare. No matter how many changes life brought my way, I could always count on that covered dish of cookies waiting for me on her kitchen table.

I remember lifting the lid many a time, peeking in and trying not be too obvious about choosing the one that had the most chips.  There they were, nestled together—golden-brown, sweet-smelling and tender—bending slightly, each with a corner or two thrown over the back of another.  And they were always square.

Most cookies are round.  But not my Gramma’s. When she scooped up cookie dough she didn’t just use a little spoon.  No, she reached for a big spoon and pulled up big globs of dough and smiled as she dropped them onto the scratched-up cookie sheets she’d used for years.  It didn’t occur to her to fuss and fret over the way they spread out and overtook the pan, melting into each other’s sides.

That’s the way she took to cooking everything.  I loved standing on a chair so I could watch her scooping up heaps of soft, white flour using an old chipped cup. She would never have given serious thought to spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it off with a knife.  Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten owed its goodness to a pinch of this and a little shake of that stirred together under a keen eye that could sense when things looked just right.

When I look at how I approach life—particularly writing— these days, it seems I’ve left that inner sense behind.  That knowing of when it’s just right, when it’s pleasing to the ear. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time looking to others who seem to have it all figured out.  As I compare my square cookies to their perfectly round ones—served up on fine china, no less—I feel like what I have to offer falls miserably short.

And so, I agonize and over-think every sentence as minutes turn to hours, and I come to the end of the day with little to show for my struggle.  Little more than a gut pulled up tight under my ribs and a half-written piece with the life and light wrung completely out of it.

I think it’s time to get back to writing the way I used to—the way Gramma cooked.
She didn’t seem bound by the rules of a neatly coiffed Betty Crocker or concerned with emulating the gourmet creations of Julia Child.  Gramma had something special inside that trusted a quick taste kissed off the tip of her finger with a sweet, little mmm-mmpt.

Square cookies, anyone?

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Liked “Square Chocolate Chip Cookies?”

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“Of Plates and Silver Spiders”

caution: driver singing

Here’s my tribute to the last official day of Summer! Celebrating a season of sunshine, too free and easy to be captured in little boxes on a calendar hanging flat on my wall.

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72-car in sky-jpeg copy

Caution: Driver Singing. I saw this bumper sticker a few weeks ago.  It reminded me of  a couple girls we watched while stuck in traffic on a hot California day.

Desperate for a reprieve from triple-digit temps, we were flying down the freeway to escape the heat. After sizzling past Dixon, Vacaville came and went like a flash in the rear view mirror.   We scorched on through Fairfield and  down the hill, chasing a siren song! It lifted off the cool waters of a distant bay and drifted inland upon the delta breeze.

There, where gentle winds beckoned us onward, our truck slowed to a crawl, bogged down in a mire of commuters, travelers, semi-trucks and RV’s.  All converging at the Cordelia interchange, barely flowing through a clogged artery meant to pump life into cities along the bay.

By the time we inched off the ramp and onto 680, traffic had been stop-and-go for at least a half-dozen songs on the radio.  My husband navigated our camper-shelled cocoon slowly to the inside lane.  While he concentrated on the tail-lights in front of us, I took  in the sights all around, marveling at the sea of humanity being squeezed into a freeway two sizes too small.

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