It’s that time of year again. When the baubles and trimmings, cooking and gatherings remind me that I have the shortest memory on the planet.
As if we need reminding, this is the time of year when goodwill and kindness should abound, when tolerance and love should be chief. When the red kettles and bell ringers stand at store entrances; when the Santas are sitting; when the dreidels are spinning.
I look at this time as a reminder to be good, not because the Elf on the Shelf is watching, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.
But earlier this week, I found myself forgetful.
Tuesday night, after Moira begged and bugged, pleaded and implored to roll out the cookie dough I’d mixed together a few days earlier. I forgot the reason I’d made the dough in the first place: as a show of goodwill, kindness, tolerance and love.
I gave in to Moira’s insistence and as we got started, felt myself begin to crack. I’d forgotten these cookies weren’t about Jenny and how tired she was, about the mess it would make and she’d be stuck cleaning up. These cookies represented an awful truth: I HATE BAKING.
I feel awful even typing the “H” word, but baking is such a messy pain. And cutout cookies? Good lord! The flour, the rolling, the sticky dough?!
After gathering the necessary gear, immediately I struggled to get the cold, hard dough from the container. It was as if the dough had turned to stone.
Moira, excited to use the new snowflake cutter, wore it like a bracelet and fiddled with the star, tree, rocking horse, angel and dove cutters. Anxious to have something to do, she chirped about school and a book she’d been reading. I forgot her excitement. I forgot how precious and fleeting such moments are.
I tried explaining cutouts aren’t really a two-person job which is code for “Beat it!” but I held my tongue and struggled to work out a two-person system.
I’ve never been the most patient person and as the dough continued to frustrate me, I started to fear it would take all night. And when I get fearful, I get ugly.
After we got the first couple pans through, me getting more crazed and upset with each lump of flour, I yelled at Moira, “I just want this done!”
I forgot she’s just a little girl.
Then I saw it. I saw that I was injuring this little girl’s spirit. I saw Moira, who’s just innocent and happy and filled with joy of the season. I saw her chin drop, her shoulders sag. She asked to leave. “Oh, no,” I barked. “We’re in this together.”
Both Marty and Maclane cut in, offering to help, but I refused, boiling.
And then something happened.
I’m guessing when I muttered, “We’re in this together,” that it was a prayer of sorts.
Instead of pushing my daughter into a state of tears, it was as if my attitude of awfulness fell away and a flow was found amidst the baking madness.
Magically, a calm blanketed me and we struck a rhythm. I rolled and we both worked the cutters. Moira lumped the scraps into a ball as we took turns laying them on the cookie sheets. When a batch came out of the oven, Moira would scoop them from the pans to the cooling racks while I’d roll out the next batch.
I felt my breathing settle and my pulse slow, it was then that I remembered.
I remembered this wasn’t about Jenny or the cookies or the mess. I remembered I needed Moira! I needed her to show me how to behave! I needed Moira to show me what goodwill and kindness, tolerance and love looked like.
I forgot all of this.
But I’m never forgotten. The love that makes this season bright sustains us all, even me, in our darkest, most-harried and wrecked moments. The goodwill and kindness, tolerance and LOVE reached beyond this Earthly plane, into the darkest corner of my soul to remind me, “Do not despair.”
Maybe a meltdown during cookie baking isn’t a big deal to most, but it’s in these moments that I see how far I have to go, how much better I want to be. I know I’ll soon forget, again, and get all wrapped up in Jenny, but Tuesday night Santa came early. That from the most feeble of phrases, “We’re in this together,” comes the most honest of prayers: “We’re in this together.”
Without Moira (and every other living entity), I cannot know and understand what goodwill and kindness, tolerance and love looks like, feels like. Thank goodness “we’re in this together.”
Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!
Originally published 20 December 2014 in The Observer.