My grandma Ethel begins baking weeks before Christmas, her work takes time. Yuletide cherry gem cookies, like sweet scarlet rubies nestled in soft floury sugar. Tan cookies with careful fork-pressed hash marks; trademark peanut butter from an old Schenectady, New York recipe. Chunks of chocolate chips, swirled in batches of dark and light brown, undulating contours, each slightly different from the next. Christmas trees with shiny green sprinkles and Red Hot candy decorations, hand cut with a metal mold. Layer upon layer, they are placed on wax paper in circular tin containers from the 1940’s when she became a mother. A couple tins are kept out, many our slid into the outdoor freezer, an unknown quantity of love and Christmas spirit frozen in waiting. We arrive to ham and turkey, cooked that day, but the cookies linger in memory year after year. That evening Rochester snow falls outside, white flakes looking in. I sit on my grandpa’s lap, his fingers press organ keys, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer bellows from our lungs between cookie bites. At night I slumber in my father’s old bed, the one with carved wooden posts, hear Santa’s sleigh in my dreams, awake for presents, count the hours until the tins and milk come out again.
I don’t pray every night, but I probably should. After baths, books, conversation with wife, I usually drift into writing, creating, rearranging words on a screen. Mind a whir, could journey depths until dawn, but the clock of calculation, of sanity, of sacred sleep, tells me to stop. I go into my daughter’s room, turn down her light, I love you, I say to her curled up slumber. I meditate in my son’s room, the sound of his breathing, my pew, my stained glass, my sanctuary. Seated, darkness, air in, carbon dioxide out, first minutes filled with brain bouncing from thought to thought, the earlier, the tomorrow, the could happen. Then sometimes the indescribable now, when I’m nowhere, everywhere, witness to all time, and no time at all. Emerge a short life span later, pray for my colleague, that her malignant tumor retreats, allows life, hers to continue. It feels like I could stay forever, talking to God, to no one, to everyone.