12/19/2006

Mrs. Smith's Secret Weapon

When I was a kid my best friend, Betsy, lived two doors over in a huge, fieldstone house. She had six brothers and sisters. Her father was my doctor and her mother was the office nurse. Their house was always full- of sound, energy, laughing, crying and loving.

They scared the living shit out of me.

I was a shy little mouse, plopped in amongst a jungle full of flying monkeys. In their world, everything seemed so easy. They were physical- comfortable in their bodies, at home in their skins and yet, like every family, dysfunctional. But this didn't seem to bother them. They went right on laughing and playing and duking it out without seeming to care what the rest of the world thought or felt about them.

They could fly and I was stuck on the ground- afraid to try.

My friend, Betsy, took me under her wing and in my own way, I took her under mine. We stuck, thicker than blood, throughout our lives...Although I must say, she has been the better friend- always there, always kind, always patient. While I wander off for months, sometimes years at a time, lost in the swirl of my own life, Betsy is always there.

It has always amazed me that she has no concept of how truly wonderful she is. She has become, in so many ways, her mother.

When I was timid and scared to death to join in the mix of their family, Mrs. Smith seemed to intuit this. She never pushed, just folded me into her clan the same way she folded chocolate chips into the cookies she baked and had ready for us kids every afternoon.

I soaked it all up, treasured every moment and swore that one day when I had children of my own I would bake cookies for them every afternoon...until one day I became as good a mom to my kids as Mrs. Smith was to hers.

As soon as they were old enough to eat solid food, I began to bake. I have movies of the Unnamed Ones on kitchen chairs, wearing oversized white aprons and wielding long-handled wooden spoons coated with cookie dough. I wrote my first book in the kitchen, surrounded by children waiting for the next batch of chocolate chip cookies to pop out of my oven. I became The Cookie Mom. Somewhere along the way, I forgot to worry about doing it the right way. I was too busy doing to worry about being.

My Unnamed Ones have grown beyond my cookies. They are eating "healthy" food, or going out to eat or forgetting to eat. They are poised on the edge of the nest, tasting the feel of the wind beneath their wings. They have no time for moms and chocolate chip cookies.

This has not stopped me from baking them. I have new "children" who wait eagerly by the front door twice a week. I am their mom, their little girl, their best friend, their wife or their girlfriend...I am whomever they need at the moment, even if they can't remember my name. They do remember the important stuff- I am The One With the Cookies and when we are together munching, the problems of the day don't seem as monumental. Getting old alone in a nursing home is forgotten for a brief second and we are all family.

Love, like Mrs. Smith's chocolate chip cookies, must be contagious.

1 comment:

Teena said...

Are my cookies in the mail?