I pushed my grocery cart through the aisles, trying to make quick work of this week’s shopping, checking off another of my chores on my “to do” list, another of the mundane activities that mark the passing of time in my life: back-to-school day Monday, trash night Tuesday, bath night Wednesday, etc.
I really didn’t even glance at the grocery list in my hand as I mechanically grabbed the items and tossed them in to the cart. I reached up for a box of Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, affectionately known as “daddy cookies” in our house, and caught my breath. Next to them were boxes of Pinwheel cookies—chocolate covered marshmallow on a graham cookie base. My mom’s favorite cookies.
Tears backed up behind my eyes. I miss my mom. And in something as mundane as a weekly grocery shopping trip on Mother’s Day weekend, seeing her favorite cookie made the pain of her loss suddenly acute.
Actually, my mom’s favorite cookies were what she called “Marsh Mallows”, but I don’t think that particular brand exists anymore. I almost bought a box of Pinwheels, in memory of my mother, but I had a visual flash of me drowning my various sorrows as warm tears ran down my face, a pathetic creature surrounded by a mess of melted chocolate and marshmallow at the dining room table.
I had to laugh, thinking that my Mom may well have been responsible for that picture and the fact that I did not go home and blow my diet.
My mom did love her sweets. The first things that I learned to cook by her side were cakes, candies and cookies. Other things, like meals: meats and vegetables, came much later. She first taught me how to make fudge. She tried to teach me how to make divinity. We even pulled taffy, stretching it across the kitchen from corner to corner.
Mom loved pretty cakes. The first cake she baked for my Dad when they were dating was a checkerboard cake that looked pretty, but was hard as a rock because when she baked it she ran out of batter and just added flour and water to make up the difference. Cakes for birthdays were always homemade and extra special. She took a couple of cake decorating classes, and would make a cake just to get extra practice in. Holidays usually included pineapple-upside-down-cakes, a tradition that I have continued, an easy pretty cake that always turns out well.
I remember baking a birthday cake for a childhood friend once. I tried to bake it in the microwave. It was awful, one of several culinary disasters that Mom and I would shake our heads over.
I put the Pinwheels back on the shelf and tossed the Lorna Doones into the basket. I didn’t need the marshmallow cookies, I had incredibly sweet memories of my mother. And I had relearned something else as well.
A mundane activity like grocery shopping is something I almost don’t notice when I’m doing it. So often I find myself checking off life, waiting to live until after I get my “chores done”.
Maybe spotting those Pinwheels was indeed a gift from my mother, a gentle reminder that there are treasures to be found in the simplest tasks of life. A reminder not to worry away my precious time on merely getting done with chores or waiting for things to get better.
The remainder of that grocery shopping trip was packed with emotion—cherished memories and hopeful visions. There was sadness. There was joy. There was laughter. It was time well spent and lived.
© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.