The temperature here tonight is 8 degrees and dropping. Winter sucks. And yet it has its moments and its beauties. Before I share installment 2 of the story, I want to make note that as Sunday would have been my mother's 100th birthday, today would have been my fathers.
My father was a good man with a generous heart. He would (and actually did on at least on occasion) give a stranger the shirt off his back if he were in need. He loved puns. He loved the mandolin. Some of my best memories are playing the piano and singing with my father. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic and those "best" memories are mixed with the pain of a child's confusion about the weird person who her father turned into and the burden of being made responsible for both entertaining him and keeping him from getting any drunker. My dad was an actuary, a mathematical genius. He adored my mother, worshiped her. Because she was so wounded, she never really allowed that love in. She didn't trust it. I could be wrong, but I think that's why he drank - so he could avoid the pain of having his love rejected. I think that's why he could stop drinking after she lost her mind. The rejection was no longer from her, it was from her madness. He watched over her with obsessive devotion until the day he died. When he could no longer care for her himself and she was in the nursing home, he spent all day every day feeding her, making special shakes for her, reading to her, talking to her. I was grateful that on the day he died, he had taken a day off from that relentless devotion. He spent the morning chatting with neighbors and was preparing to go to a book club at the library when his heart gave out. As a father, he was a good provider but not very present. He was usually drunk when we sang together. When I was sorting through my confusion about my brother and I wrote him a letter asking him "if my brother beat me, if I had bruises and broken bones, would you still want me to be around him?" his answer was, "yes." So it goes. The wounds I carry from my mother were more direct, more visceral and direct. My father wounds are more subtle. Still, as with her, I would not have traded him for another. As with her, he is woven into my body, mind and spirit. He was/is my father. I am his daughter. So it goes. Happy Birthday, Dad.
And now installment 2 (see DR 192 for installment #1) of the unfinished....
Amanda and the Cookie Witch
Katherine E. Rabenau
"Mrs. Grynch! Mrs. Grynch! It was magic, wasn't it?" Amanda was breathless with excitement.
"Magic? What was magic? What are you talking about, Amanda?"
"Why the cookies, of course. My father said "No, never." And then the cookies smelled so good and tasted so good and he all of a sudden changed his mind. It must have been magic. My father never changes his mind."
Hagatharinda smiled. "Well all that really matters is that he said 'yes.' Humph. Magic cookies, indeed!" But her eyes were twinkling and Amanda was sure that the cookies were special and she thought she knew a way to prove it.
"My mother wants the recipe. She thought they were heavenly."
"Oh, yes, they are, aren't they? Those particular cookies are an ancient family recipe passed from generation to generation as far back as anyone can remember and each succeeding generation is sworn to secrecy. Seems kind of silly, but a tradition is a tradition and a promise is a promise. Give your Mom my apologies and tell her I'll make another batch for her one day soon."
"Hagatharinda, I'm sure they were magic. They must have been. Why else would my father change his mind?"
"Well, child, there are all kinds of magic in this world. Now if you mean, some kind of black magic, well, no, my cookies aren't magical. But there is something about them and I'll let you decide if it's magic or not. Now, even though I can't tell you the recipe for my cookies, I will tell you one special ingredient that goes into making them. It's part of every recipe my family ever made and it's very powerful. And perhaps a kind of magic. Can you guess what it is?"
"Eye of newt?"
"Amanda, do you really think there was eye of newt in those cookies?"
"Well, no, I guess not."
"Now stop and think, child. Try again. But this time let your head listen to your heart. What might the special ingredient be?"
Amanda thought for a while. "Tears?"
"That's closer, but what does your heart tell you tears would do to a recipe? How would tears taste?"
"Sad, I guess."
"Right. Did my cookies seem, sad? Think back. Try to remember how they tasted, how it felt to eat them."
"Well, they definitely weren't sad. They were, well, kind of peaceful seeming. I mean, well the smell made things seem safe and warm and they tasted ... Oh! Hagatharinda, I know! I know! It's love, isn't it? It's love!"
"Bravo, Amanda! Absolutely correct. And that, Miss Amanda Crane, is your first lesson. True magic is very simple. It is the ample and wise use of love. You have done well. Your homework from this first lesson is to think of several ways to apply the use of love and try one of them. Now off you go. You still have some time to play with your friends. Go on, now."
"What I teach you, Amanda, must come from your own heart. It is a very big heart and a wise one. Trust it and you'll be fine."
"But, Hagatharinda, I don't know how. . ."
"Of course you do, dear, you just have to figure it out. Now off you go."
"It's not fair. I don't want to."
"You'll see, dear. It will become clear to you when you're ready. I trust your goodness Amanda. Listen to your heart. Pay attention to the world around you. Watch how people and things interact. And be patient - with yourself and others. Wisdom is not an instant soup mix. It is slowly brewed. Like a great soup - or any great recipe - wisdom evolves from a combination of quality ingredients, an open and creative exploration of tastes and possibilities, a willingness to fail, and a love of process. A love for the journey of creation. Recipes are guidelines. But no matter how carefully you follow any recipe, no two soups are ever exactly alike, though they may be comparably good or bad tasting. In this life, Amanda, you can be a cook - you can learn to follow an instruction book for existence, - or you can be a chef, can learn to create for yourself from whatever ingredients are put in front of you. I want to teach you to create your life, to be fully in it, to find your own magic, your own wisdom. If I try to tell you how to be wise, I prove myself a fool and rob you of the only road to true wisdom, self-discovery. True wisdom is not theory, it is practice. And that is much much more than I meant to say and you may go off and explore this lesson or not, as you choose. That is itself part of the lesson. Now, out."
And so Amanda left Hagatharinda's house feeling anything but loving. "How am I supposed to figure this out? Mean old witch. She's supposed to tell me stuff, like my other teachers do. Cool, witch stuff. It's not fair. Mean nasty old witch." And off she stomped as loudly and angrily as she could, so that hopefully Hagatharinda would see her unhappiness and feel bad.
In her kitchen Hagatharinda just smiled quietly.
But Amanda wasn’t a child who could sulk for long and after she has huffed and puffed and moaned for a while longer, she gradually began to think about Hagatharinda’s words - that wisdom had to come from her own heart - and she remembered how she actually hated being told how to do things, that she actually preferred to figure problems out for herself. And she also remembered Hagatharinda’s kind eyes, so full of compassion and wisdom. And Hagatharinda had said she, Amanda, had a big, WISE heart! She had never thought of herself as having a wise heart before and wondered what it meant to have one. One thing she was pretty sure of though, was that a person with a wise heart would apologize to Hagatharinda for being so rude and angry.
“Hagatharinda?” As the door opened, Amanda’s tears began to flow, “I’m sorry, Hagatharinda. I’m sorry I said those terrible things.”
“I know, child. I know you are. No need to cry. Perhaps I could have been more gentle with your feelings. I forget sometimes how very young you are. I accept your apology and I apologize also to you.”
Amanda’s eyes widened at that. She had never heard of a grown-up apologizing before. Hagatharinda was a constant surprise.
Hagatharinda looked at her and laughed. “Oh, I suppose adults aren’t supposed to apologize, eh? Not enough of us do when we are wrong. World would be a much better place if we all learned to own up to our mistakes. There’s no one in this world who doesn’t make them and pretending you were right just makes you all the more wrong.”
Amanda nodded thoughtfully, clearly still puzzled at this new notion.
Hagatharinda continued, “In a way, you have actually done one part of your assignment in coming back here to apologize. Truth is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It is an act of love. Or perhaps it is Love in action.”
“But I didn’t even know that I was doing it! I don’t understand what you want me to do, Hagatharinda. I think that’s why I was so mad before. I hate it when I don’t understand things.”
“Most curious minds do hate not understanding. The problem is that I don’t know if I can explain how. There is no one way to do this assignment. Each of us must discover and live Truth and Love from our own uniqueness. But maybe this will help. Start observing people and situations carefully. If there’s someone you or others don’t like, experiment with seeing them with “new” eyes, from a new perspective. Look beyond the surface. Try to imagine what it would be like to be that person and see if it doesn’t alter the way you feel about them. This doesn’t mean that you have to like everyone. Not everyone is likeable. There are people who are so damaged by life or birth or nature that they can’t find the path to their own goodness. But there is no one - not even the most despicable among us - who does not deserve our compassion.“
“What’s compassion, Hagatharinda? I don’t think I understand what you are talking about.”
Hagatharinda laughed. “Ah, sweet child, words are such inadequate tools for exploring the territory of the heart... Literally the word compassion means to “feel with” but that doesn’t really help much, does it? Actually, I can tell you what compassion isn’t more easily than I can tell you what it is. It isn’t pity or feeling sorry for someone. It isn’t presuming that you know how they feel. Hmm. Maybe a good example of compassion is what happened between the two of us earlier. After you left here, each of us stopped and thought about what the other one might be thinking or feeling. We didn’t stop having our own feelings, we simply expanded our own perspective to include the other person’s as well.”
Amanda nodded thoughtfully. “Ok. I guess that makes sense to me.”
They were interrupted by the mournful howl of Lorenzo, Hagatharinda’s exquisite black cat, who made it clear that the time for talk had passed and the time for dinner and attention had come. “Oh my! Look at the time! Amanda, you had better get on home before your parents start worrying about you. I’m so glad you came back, though, and that we had this talk. Thank you.”
Amanda quickly put on her jacket, gave Lorenzo a hug and headed for the door. “Me too.” At the door she hesitated for a moment and looked shyly at the old woman. “Hagatharinda?”
“I love you.” And off she ran.
Some things I'm grateful for today:
- my furnace
- my fuzzy robe and my sweater
- thermal windows and thermal curtains
- my father
- beautiful clouds
- Angel and Tara Grace
- food stamps
- my mattress
- my new Powershot camera with lots of pixels and zoom
- my new 22" Vizio flat screen TV
- zero balance on my credit cards
- my clothes dryer
- my Bose sound System
- my big Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes win
- winning lottery tickets
- my camera
- food in my freezer
- the 5 senses
Have a Wonderful Day!
May All Your Cookies Be Made with Love!