Memory of home, from “Man in Landscape”

It’s not that the times aren’t dark. It’s that they’ve been so for so long that the darkness has become normal. We no longer notice it, or, if we do, we keep it to ourselves. It would serve nothing and no one to make mention of it, save for death. And for all the platitudes which grace television and billboards, don’t be fooled: death is the master here in these latter days, death the only one being served, regardless of what anyone tells you.

***

But I remember. Every now and then, lying in bed, at night, I smell cookies. So mundane. But I do catch their scent. My mother made them once or twice a week. It was in a time when people obsessed over their health. She didn’t care. Or, she did—how could she not, being a mother?—but decided that the pleasure it brought us was worth the risk.

I would smell them baking, the oven door no barrier to their aroma. The smell would fill the house, butter and chocolate and sugar giving the house the sweet smell of home. Then they’d come out, done, but we couldn’t touch them. They had to cool down, and we had to eat dinner first. No dessert before dinner. (Remember dessert? Remember good meals? Remember?)

We’d eat the meal, each of us recounting our days—me, my brother, our parents—long and leisurely, not concerned with the passing of time, for time didn’t pass when we were all together, in the kitchen, swapping stories, reconnecting our lives together after a day apart at work and school.

And then, after dinner was eaten and the dishes put away, Mother would bring out the cookies. (I called her Mother. He called her Mama. My choice was not one of formality; it was simply who she was, what fit her. She could be both Mother and Mama. She carried multitudes in her.)

Oh, I don’t know if anyone else would have enjoyed them as much as we did. They might have acknowledged their good taste. But would they have devoured them as we did? With the same fierce love? No. They tasted all the better because, busy as she was, she took the time to bake them. Sometimes she’d prepare the batter the night before, so that all she’d need to do when returning home from work would be to put them in the oven. On the weekends their making would be a family project, even Dad joining in on the work. (To me he was Dad. To my brother he was Pop. There was no formality in him. He was a man who could talk to high and low and treat them equally with equanimity. He was loved by all. Most of all by Mother.)

After we’d had our fill, we separated, to attend to our own interests, strengthened by that time spent together, our rejuvenation. And the cycle would begin again.

Do you remember family? Do you remember love? Do they still exist? Can they?

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