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Holiday Happy

“Hey, Nanna?” The scent of cinnamon hung in the air as I swept the brown powder and shards of glass into the dustpan. “Didn’t you used to make a kind of ginger-snickerdoodle hybrid cookie when I was younger?” 

“Yes. I made ginger cookies and snickerdoodle cookies and lots of other cookies.” 

She looked at me with a hint of confusion. It cleared as she recaptured the topic, “Which should we make, Lucy?” 

I felt a soft glow—the days when she remembered my name were the best ones.

“Well,” I said, smiling at her. “I was thinking the ones you used to make around the holidays—they were like snickerdoodles but with a bite. I think you put ginger in them. Does that sound right?”

The confusion was back. She picked at the frills of the tablecloth to give herself time to answer before deciding on a response. 

“Why don’t you just ask the internet?”

“Nanna . . . the internet doesn’t know that kind of thing.”

“Why not? It knows everything else.”

Mom reappeared from the pantry, brandishing a replacement cinnamon pot and setting it on the counter with slightly more force than she needed to. 

“Ginger-doodles. They were like snickerdoodles,” Mom said, “but they were thicker. More heft to them.”

Nanna nodded, but I could tell it was an automatic response, not really signifying agreement.

“They were my favourite,” I said, putting my hand over hers. She turned her hand face up and lightly clasped mine. Something changed in Mom’s expression as she watched this simple gesture, and suddenly she was pulling out scales and mixing bowls.

“We can make them,” Mom declared. “We’ve got all the basics, and I’m pretty sure I saw a pot of ginger in the pantry, too.”

I sighed and squeezed Nanna’s hand. I’d get the ginger, of course I would, but why did we need to do this in the first place? Wasn’t it enough for me to just visit and enjoy my grandmother’s company for the afternoon? Mom had a new activity each time I came, and I was growing increasingly tired of her constant distractions. It wasn’t like I’d somehow not notice that Nanna was less alert this time, or that she was getting less accurate with details. I hadn’t been a child for a number of years—I didn’t need shielding from her condition. 

Returning with the ginger from the pantry, I noticed Mom adding way too much spice to the mix. 

“Easy on the cinnamon, there, Ma,” I said. 

“You never use enough, that’s why yours turn out so bland.”

“Bland?” I asked, taken back by the insult. “Who has ever called my cookies bland?

“Lucy, honey, don’t listen to her,” Nanna said. “I like my cookies bland. That’s how they taste best.”

Mom snorted, pushing me over the edge. 

“Why are we even making cookies? Can’t we just sit and talk like normal people?” I said, horrified to hear a tremble in my voice. “Can we please talk about what is happening?”

“Why does your generation need to talk about everything, Lucy?” Mom asked wearily. “All that talking—for what? It doesn't change anything.” Mom turned and washed her hands, drying them on a festive kitchen towel. “You just need to learn how to push through. Like I’m making cookies, not just reminiscing about the time we made cookies in the past.”

"You two are fighting about me, aren't you?" Nanna said. 

Mom and I turned to her, our matching scowls melting away. “No, Nanna!” I said, stroking her hand to reassure her. “Not at all!” 

“No, Mom. We’re not fighting. I’m just trying to get Lucy to live in the moment,” my Mom said, the merest hint of a bite in her words. “She spends too much time angsting about the world and sometimes, she just needs to get on with things.” She picked up the flour and shook it at me. “That’s why she hasn’t left Stephen yet and that’s why she’s not bought a house even though she’s been unhappy for years and has saved up more than enough for a deposit.” 

"It must be nice knowing exactly what everyone else should do with their lives," I said. Before I knew what I was doing, I had a handful of flour cocked to throw at my mom.

"Lucy!" Mom said, shocked. "You wouldn't!"

I would, though and I did. To this day, I don’t know what possessed me in that moment. Child-like joy filled me at the sight of my mother’s powder covered face and hair—her mouth still stuck in a shocked open-mouthed expression. 

Tension filled the room while we all stared at each other, unsure what to do next. 

"Seems like she’s living in the moment now," Nanna said, cackling. 

I watched as Mom’s face changed in slow motion from shock to silent laughter. For a moment, I thought she was crying, as tears streamed down the flour coating her cheeks. My gut stayed twisted in knots until her silent laughter erupted into full belly guffaws. 

I finally exhaled with relief and just in time, too. If I'd been inhaling, I might have choked on the flour bomb headed for my face.

As it was, the powder exploded and sprinkled my clothing like newfallen snow. The three of us dissolved into laughter, embracing the intimacy and absurdity of the situation. 

"You're both right, you know?" Nanna said. We were busy cleaning up the mess we'd made when she spoke up.

"About what?" Mom asked. 

"How to get along better. You need to talk more, and you," Nanna turned to me, "need to stop for waiting for permission. If you want to change something, do it."

Mom and I looked at each other, and something very slight changed. Maybe we were still amped up from the flour fight, but we both nodded a silent agreement to do better. 

With that, Mom sat down at the table with Nanna, while I got to work on the ginger-doodle cookies. When I looked over, Mom was leaning in while she spoke, clasping her mother’s hand. 

December 11, 2020 16:13

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1 comment

A. S.
17:22 Dec 17, 2020

Great job! This story was very well executed. At first I was a bit confused about why the grandma didn’t know what they were talking about, but as the story progressed it made more and more sense. I really liked it.


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