You may have noticed that I do a lot of baking, but that I don’t seem to bake a lot of cookies. In fact, in the past sixteen months, I’ve baked a very limited amount of cookies, and they were all for Christmas or other celebrations. I haven’t really been able to bring myself to bake cookies for anything other than special occasions. It’s a little strange, because I used to bake cookies all the time.

No, actually, it’s not that strange. I have very good reasons for not baking cookies, and it’s only recently that I’ve thought about dealing with my anti-cookie mentality. You see, in addition to not baking them, I don’t eat them much either. But that’s mainly because the only cookies I’ll buy are Girl Scout cookies. And of those, I stick to the Thin Mints. I don’t see much point in buying cookies that I can make better. Except, I’m not making them, am I?

Here’s why: my daughter died.

A lot of my issues go back to that, don’t they? It seems like the perfect hang-up, doesn’t it? But I’ll tell you, this goes beyond mere grief. It goes beyond just feeling bad about not having my daughter with me.

As I said before, I used to bake cookies a lot. I even baked them when I lived in Japan, even though all I had was a tiny convection oven that allowed me to cook about a half-dozen cookies at once. It was okay, because I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed sharing American-style cookies with my students and co-workers. I even made cookies while I was pregnant. It gave me something to do. And while I was baking, I would daydream about the cookies I would bake with my growing child. I thought about all the family recipes I would share with her, about how I would teach her to enjoy cooking and baking, about passing along family traditions and lessons about eating healthy.

I did what so many mothers do: I daydreamed about my child and the experiences we would share. I had so much I wanted to do with her.

The Friday after what turned out to be our final pre-natal check-up, I became increasingly concerned about Lauren’s well-being. I’ve written of this, so many times, and it still hurts me to think of it. I remember those terror-filled days, those hours I spent confused and unsure and powerless, as vividly as though I lived them yesterday. That weekend was the worst of my life, three days of anguish, knowing that something was wrong but not wanting to believe it, not knowing what to do about it.

To keep my mind off my fears, I tried to distract myself by making peanut butter cookies. The process went slowly, much slower than ever. I had to stop periodically to grab tissues and cry out my frustrations. I tried to convince myself that making cookies would lift my spirits; I told myself that these were the last cookies I would make without my daughter as a helper. I imagined the nostalgic role peanut butter cookies would play in my life, the cookies I made before Lauren’s arrival. I imagined that she would be especially fond of these cookies.

I baked a dozen of them before I gave up, turned off the oven, stuck the rest of the batter in our tiny fridge, and crawled into bed to cry myself to sleep. The batter remained untouched all the rest of the weekend and on into the week. It was still sitting in the fridge while I was giving birth to my dead daughter, and it was still in the fridge when we came home with empty arms. My mother threw it away; I couldn’t even bear to touch the bowl.

Since then, I haven’t been able to look at a peanut butter cookie without feeling that hitch in my chest, that scratching my nose that is the warning sign of uncontrollable crying. I doubt very much I will ever eat one again. I certainly have no desire to.

Even now, nearly sixteen months later, I find if difficult to enjoy baking cookies. I manage at Christmas because they’re familiar traditions, and in the context of the holidays, they’re comforting in a way. But the making of them is not always enjoyable. The cupcakes I bake have no connection to Lauren when she was alive – they are monuments of my grief for her, separate from her memory – but cookies are like little mementos, reminders of what I had in my grasp, only to have it taken when I wanted it most.

Two weeks ago, I tried making lemon sugar cookies, and they failed miserably. They were not the soft and puffy cookies I had hoped for (and that were pictured along with the recipe); they were flat and crispy, quickly toughening up into a hard-to-chew disc of disappointment. Rather a fitting metaphor, I thought.

In another two weeks, the Tuesday with Dorie assignment will be cookies. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make them or not. Part of me wants to skip them, to not put myself through the trouble of it all. But another part of me wants to try them, to not give up on cookies yet. After all, these will be something I’ve not done before – like the cupcakes, they would be part of the healing process. That might make them worth the effort. Healing is part of grief. I know I will have to make cookies again sooner or later; I cannot live a life of avoidance, especially when it’s something as simple as a cookie.

Ah, but that’s just it. For me, there’s no such thing as a “simple cookie” any longer. And maybe not for a long time.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

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