I dipped my finger into the warm, chocolaty batter and brought it to my mouth. The scent was heavenly as flavor expanded across my tongue. Tears filled my eyes. I stood motionless for a moment, my finger still in my mouth, as the flavor released its memories. I closed my eyes, and I could once again see three little blonde children chatting happily at the kitchen table as they made cakes out of Play-Dough while a baby girl banged her fist in a highchair. I imagined a different kitchen with a maple-topped center island and tall ceilings. I could hear the sounds of my children and feel a warm breeze blowing through open windows. When I opened my eyes, the only thing that was left were the tears and a lingering taste of chocolate.
This afternoon, I made Texas sheet cake brownies for the first time since we moved away from home. These brownies are a family favorite, a staple of Fourth of July picnics and summertime get-togethers. Making them is a hassle, but the delicious, warm, melty batter is worth it. The batter, and later the warm frosting, are almost better than the finished product. When the kids were little, they all lined up for a spoonful of each while I was cooking. The frosting is poured onto the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven, and it cools into a fudge that is almost cool as it melts in your mouth.
I don’t miss that place we all still call “home.” We haven’t been back in over four months, and I’m in no hurry to return. While there are a few people I miss, and certain restaurants, the things that made that place my home are no longer there. It is a strange and disconcerting thing to realize that no place is really home anymore. Home is in the brownie batter, the memories, the pictures, the stories, and in the love I carry in my heart for those who are far away or no longer with us.
This is a time of transition. I feel old. Often, I feel sad that life has had to change. I loved having all four kids in my life each day and living at home. I miss my parents and my grandparents. For most of my life, the presence of these people was something I took for granted. Now I know what a gift those years were, and that I will spend my remaining years missing, always missing, those people who are now gone. I remember Grandma once telling me how difficult it is to get old. She said, “You miss so many people. The older you get, there are more people who leave before you.”
I look at T sometimes, and I try to imagine what my life would be like if he was gone, too. He jokes that he has an invisible expiration date stamped on his forehead. His dad died at 64, and he thinks that will be his fate, too. He jokes about it, but I know that he fears this will become the truth. I think of the girls, too. While they live here with us now, someday they’ll be gone, too. The enormity of change presses on me too much sometimes.
We create new memories. We adapt our lives to the changes. Or we don’t. Some people stall out as the changes in life hit them. They continue on with their same routines, or they become set in their ways. They stop growing. Change and growth, especially as we become older, is not easy. As children, our paths seem clearly defined: go to school, fall in love, get married, have children. What’s the next step? Grow old. Are we the first generation who is seeking something else between having children and growing old? There are a lot of years in between that seem to be undefined. Personally, I’m not content with the thought of just getting old until…..death.
T and I have recently begun planning out the next steps in this process of change. We’re in the beginning stages of buying a house, which appears so far to be much easier than it was to recently sell houses. I like being on this side of the transaction much better. This isn’t happening without some qualms, though. T and I have developed some commitment issues. After recently getting out from under almost 30 years of commitments, we’re reluctant to commit to anything at all right now. Buying this house makes sense, though. It’s a good investment. The house is in a sought-after neighborhood. Lola loves her new school. If we buy the house, we can make some decorative changes. Our monthly payments will be cut in half. It just makes sense, but we keep telling ourselves that this is a short-term commitment.
We’re also planning a trip. T and I are going to retrace the steps of a trip we took with T’s mother when we were 17 and 19 years old. T’s grandparents lived in Northern California, and we spent two weeks one summer visiting them with his mom and little sister. We wandered all over the mountain and swam in Tiger Creek. We helped his grandpa gather firewood, and we hauled water from the well up to the cabin. It will be a different trip this time. First of all, we won’t be making a grueling drive, but we’ll fly into Lake Tahoe and rent a car for the rest of the journey. Thirty years later, we’ll walk the mountainside again, and splash in Tiger Creek.
As I was writing this post, Emily came in and she said, “Mom! This house smells like home. Its smells like Grandma and Grandpa’s house!” And so I know part of what my role in life has become: to carry on the memories of our home.