…I realized recently that the last time I baked cookies was the week after 9/11. I used to be the sort who was always baking. Cookies for parties. For work. For friends. I didn’t eat many of the cookies myself (though I did sneak bites of dough), but making them for others was something I did often. And then I didn’t.
I thought getting married was the cookie killer. But then I thought back to try and recall the last time I mixed those tasty little chocolate morsels into the gooey goodness that is raw dough…and I realized that the last time I baked cookies was actually the time I baked them for the firemen in Park Slope. What else does one do when the world has come crashing down around folks? Offer food.
I was part of a theatre company just a few blocks from the fire station, so I walked past it on my way to figure out if the festival we were opening that Saturday was actually going to happen. Already, there were piles of flowers and candles outside. More like mounds. I walked on the other side of the street as if that would make the events of that day less real. I glanced out at the flowers out of the corner of my eye.
That night, I went home to bake. I had seen the flowers and candles outside, but I was sure there were people inside who needed cookies just as much as I needed to do something to make the world seem more normal. The next morning, on my way to the theatre, I clutched my saran wrapped paper plate of cookies carefully so they would not slide onto the subway floor.
As I walked from the train stop towards the theatre, I made sure to cross the street so I was on the same side as the fire station. There were other people around, so I walked past. My small plate of cookies were hardly enough. I turned back though. I wanted to do something other than work on the mending fence our theatre group had started outside by the subway stop.
I managed to get myself into the fire station. There were people around. I saw a fireman. I walked toward him. This was one of those moments where nothing I could say would really matter, but I wanted to DO something. Say something. More about me than the firefighters I suppose at that moment.
I said, “Thank you. I am so sorry.” And held the plate of slightly crumpled cookies out. The fireman hesitated. It was then that I noticed the tables surrounding the room. The tables covered in every sort of food imaginable. Flies circled. The room sweltered. I could almost feel the food sighing out the weight of sorrow. I looked back at the fireman.
He looked at me and sighed as he took the cookies. I turned and may have ran out of the station. I didn’t realized until yesterday that I had not baked cookies since then. That moment when I thrust my semi-shattered belief in the innate goodness of humanity at that poor man who was tasked with accepting all of the sorrow people brought to him and leaving it to rot on tables overwhelmed with sweets and sandwiches.
My mother says that when I moved back home from NYC, I was just a little bit broken. Being my mother, she was probably right. It’s been a long time since then, and I still haven’t baked cookies. I took one of my favorite air bake cookie sheets to China with me, but never used it.
Today I bought some vanilla extract, but I forgot to buy sugar. I’m working my way back to cookies. I think I’m grateful about that.