Monday, July 02, 2012

Food, Love, and A Red Mixer

The bus shudders along Georgia Street with the traffic, narrowly missing cars on it's way over the Lion's Gate bridge.  I'm lucky to have found a seat, this time.  The bus isn't very crowded but still there is a young man sitting only a few feet away, headphones on jiving to whatever music only he can hear.

He doesn't notice the tears silently streaming down my face at first.  I'm staring out the window, unsuccessfully willing myself not to cry.  The large red suitcase I have hauled onto the bus bumps against my legs and I clutch it protectively.  Precious cargo has been lovingly packed inside and I refuse to let it go for any cost.   The tears continue and I begin to sniffle. It's a good thing that I shoved extra toilet paper in my pocket, as I knew this would happen.

Each time I leave her apartment after close hugs and whispered "I love yous", it's becoming harder and harder to walk away and descend in the elevator to street level.  I manage to keep myself in check until I hit the sidewalk, where I promptly fall apart. This time, I forgot my sunglasses to hide the tears and they fall silently and unchecked for the entire bus ride to Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.

The guy listening to his music looks at me, concerned.  I can see him out of the corner of my eye, but try to pretend I don't.  Please don't ask me if I'm okay.  I don't want to talk.  Speaking the words out loud make it real.  Just let me sit here, with my precious cargo, and let me cry.

Only weeks before I had a dream.  The kind of dream that she confided that she had been having when her husband had been diagnosed with cancer; one where she would wake up at 3 am in a cold sweat, unsettled, panicky.  Shortly after her husband had been diagnosed, Anne threw herself into caring for him-growing all kinds of healthy vegetables in their garden, cooking, and baking with a brand new Kitchen Aid mixer.  The cheery red was like a beacon on her counter, reminding both of us of our happy place-taking care of those we love by creating delicious food.

Anne is, without question, an inspiration to me in the kitchen and my closest friend.  While not as involved in social media and the food blogging community as I am, Anne reads the same food blogs, sends me links, browses through twitter, and knows more of YOU than you realize.  Every Friday at around 3 pm without fail, we'd meet at a little cafe by the ocean and exchange what we had been baking that week over steaming cups of tea.  Until, just last August in a cruel twist of fate, she was also diagnosed with cancer.  Then we'd meet at her house and the conversations turned to chemo treatments, options, time,  and how cute she looked with her hats, lovingly knit by her mother.  The red mixer was still ever present,  sitting on her counter like a beacon of hope.  When days were good, she would  continue to churn out tasty treats as if to say,

 "HA! I have cancer, but it doesn't have me.  Take THAT."

In the dream I had, cancer had won.  Anne was gone, but she had left me that beautiful mixer as a reminder.   I woke in a cold sweat at 3 am and tried to go back to sleep.  "She isn't gone", I scolded myself, "stop thinking that way."

The bus stops at the ferry terminal and I haul the suitcase to the nearest Starbucks to nurse a latte while I wait for the ferry.  The tears have stopped now, and instead my heart feels full.  That morning I was up at 6 am, baking Anne's favorite cheese biscuits that she so lovingly named "Cheesy Poppers" some time ago. (you will find the recipe here)  Once she made them and forgot the baking powder, and another her neighbor gave one to their dog. We had laughed about her cheese hockey pucks, and the dog, well-I hadn't seen her so insulted before.

"The dog?" she had squealed incredulously, "Those biscuits are incredible, and they give it to their dog? Talk about pearls before swine."

Ready to go into the oven.

Cancer has made her too weak and sick to bake and she had a hankering for biscuits, so this time, I stirred and and patted, brushed buttermilk on them, and baked them to perfection, packaged the works up, and brought them to her new apartment in Vancouver.  She lives farther away now, closer to family and cancer treatment, but what feels like miles from me.  Our once weekly visits have stretched into every other week.   We sat at her table by the window sipping juice and eating biscuits, just like we used to years before.

"Should we pack up that mixer?"  She gestured to it sitting on her counter, still gloriously red as ever.  Her time is getting ever shorter, which is something that I don't want to face.

"Are you sure?"  My eyes search hers, wishing, desperately, that is was just a dream.  This can't be happening.  How did we end up here, when only a year and a half ago the biggest concern we had was that she had planted her garlic in bulbs instead of separating them, and I was trying to find a sponsor for Blissdom Canada?

"Yes.  It's time."  The mixer barely fits into my suitcase but truth be told, I would have carried it in my bare arms all the way back to Sechelt if I had to.

Red Kitchen Aid Mixer

 I finally make it home after the bus ride, the ferry, and then a drive.  John and Kevin both ooo and ah over it's glorious red color, which looks amazing on my counter.  Just weeks before, John had let it slip that he was planning on buying me a new mixer for our wedding anniversary.

"Honey, this is the ONLY mixer I want."  His eyes told me he understood.

Kevin runs his hands over it's shiny red paint and comments that having the mixer gives me a little piece of Anne every time I use it. 

"What are you going to make first, Mom?"  I don't know.  Part of me wants to curl up and cry, but as Anne would say, that's a really boring thing to do after awhile.  So many tears have been shed that I don't think I can cry anymore.

"Don't let it sit," Anne had said before I left her apartment.  "That mixer needs to bake again." 

Instead I pull out oatmeal, flour, and chocolate chips.  I'm going to do what I do best, and what Anne would always want me to do.

I baked chocolate chips cookies for my husband, and as the first pan came out of the oven, there was a tweet from Anne, her avatar the same cheery red mixer.

"The red machine, heading home!  Fabulous biscuits."

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