Milk and Cookies

Chocolate-Chip-Cookies

Milk with cookies is a personality. The milk – hot, cold, or sugared – and the choice of biscuits – are personal and meaningful choices. How soggy you like the cookies, the number of times you dunk them in the milk – these are little signs that make us. 

Back at home, everyone in my family had a different method. 

Mother liked sugary milk, and ate two biscuits at a time, dipping them all the way in. Dey, my young sister, only had salty biscuits with tea. And aunt Ella preferred plain milk with a single, decadent chocolate cookie. They’d eat these at their own times, in their personal favourite corners –  nudged on a chair late at night under the white tube-light, curled up on the swing when lonely, hunched before the television in the afternoon. 

You made milk and cookies something people did together. 

One summer, as we were crouched on the teapoy doing math sums, you brought in biscuits with two glasses of milk and put them between us, no questions asked. And here we are, years later on movie night, hands sticky with softened biscuit flour and mouths covered in cream-staches.  

This is simple, and quite nice. 

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Postcode

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I wrote a lifetime of letters to you
in days of sickness and in health 

When the soup wasn’t salty enough,
and when little Rob was blue, red and other colours 

I invited you to my sister’s wedding
bought flowers, and sent grieving notes on your mother’s death

Wrote my food-in-a-jar recipes
on old postcards,
and stacked them by the fridge 

Papermessages like papyrus breaths
lay piled atop each other, smudged somewhere

The address on the postcards
had a missing house number,
and a postcode few numbers less.

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Sailors

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Sailors left behind lockets for their loved ones before they set sail. Mine was a platinum oval that opened into two halves. The small pictures inside had us looking opposite ways. 

I would touch it compulsively, like the fortune rock my mother held in her palms when she needed comforting. Washing dishes over the sink, walking through the market, smelling roses on the way back home. I dreamt dreams in whale sounds. 

Not knowing where you were going was confusing. I did not know how to think of you – was it day where you were, or was the light just setting? Was the ocean the blue of your eyes, had you planned a date of return?

Yet I never visited the dock, I had never lingered there like other families, waiting. I was happy to not picture the place where our distance turned real. Somewhere the land ended and there was only sea, for miles and miles and thousands of uncountable nautical distances, until there was land again. And then there, another lover, holding a pendant between their small fingers, looking at the moon that makes the waves in the water.

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Postcards With Love

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Dear darling

I hope you turn this postcard over after it has sat on the lip of your door for a few days. Give this a chance. If you are here, and before you go, I must say I love and miss you more than I can bear. I keep imagining what you must look like now. I have a photo of you as a baby that I wear in my locket, and I look at it often, picturing those big round brown eyes on an older face, with a lady’s nose. I know you must smile beautifully. Are you tall? I think so.

I don’t want to take much time, you must have so much keeping you occupied. I just wanted to send you an old recipe I have kept safe. My mother made blinis for us every Saturday morning, and we ate them very happily in the sun. They are a big favourite among children, your kids would like them. It goes very well with cream, or salmon, if you like fish. I think you do.

That was all really. Maybe you could call someday. Or visit. They allow us to meet visitors every Wednesday between four and five in the evening. Don’t worry, I will not ask you to write back. But know that you I remember you everyday. If you ever do make blinis, I hope you find pieces of my love in them.

Mama

Cookie-Dough

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I come back from work, worn out and spent. Each night, I wake up mid-sleep, as if I had never gone to bed.

I walk to the kitchen and start pulling out cans and jars. My eyes don’t even have to see where my hands are going anymore, I remember what bottle lies on which stack just as I know the alphabet.

I follow your recipe to the dot.

The same amount of flour, a cup full of sugar, little chips of chocolate hidden amidst the dough like gems in sand.

But I could never bake them like you did. So by the time I finish, the house starts to feel very empty again, without you and your sweet-smelling cookie dough.

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Roses

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Dear P,

Do you remember that Friday? Your anger had made my tears run down like acid on my dry cheeks. I had freshly bathed, soaped and sponged my face, left my skin unmossed and vulnerable, sat in your wait by the window. You walked in the door and I looked at you, beaming. But you refused to love me. You looked at me with an utter disgust in your eyes. There was something between us that felt…soaked, parched; but not thirsty, never thirsty.

In some ways the rift between us did not want to be soothed. It did not want to become a garden; it did not desire to be filled with rain. A wilting rose, which had been new to our orchard only few days ago, happy to be blossoming, joyous to have met the world, had been withered by the lack of compassion and attention offered to it. A forever smiling face too will succumb one day when all who look at it shun it. So my heart wilted, withered, succumbed when you did not touch it, see it, call it your own.

Don’t get me wrong, dear loved. You did not cause me hurt intentionally, or harm me with purpose. Your words were not rude, only sharp. Your touch was never harsh, only calculated. Your love was never inferior, but it was never meant for me.

You might find it difficult, even strange, to comprehend how I gathered so much from one loveless glance. You might prematurely blame it on my overthinking, presumptuous self, but I hope you will move beyond it once you see the truth in it, a truth you had felt and I had come to know. I find my only solace in that glance. It teaches me to seek love everyday in people, it moves me to attach myself to persons who admire me and want my time, it teaches me to find spaces out of the reach of those who censure me for things that come naturally to me.

I have opened my own ballroom and am teaching young girls to dance. I tell them to manoeuvre their body to impress no one, but only to feel a happiness that is truly theirs. Last month I met a young man as I was walking home from the market, a florist. His name is Jo, and he calls me many endearing names. I am doing well for myself and am happy, and maybe even in love.

I hope you too will meet a young girl soon, walking down some solemn street in your mismatched shoes. And perhaps she would laugh at them, and point them out.

I think you will love her greatly.

Yours,

Irene 

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LITTLE THINGS

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Dear June,

Some mornings I wake up only for you.

Thank you for embracing me without hurting my bones. For keeping the refrigerator stocked, filled to the brim with eggs.

For letting me walk you down the altar, weak and frail.

For forgoing not one, but two childhoods, yours and Susan’s, in my care.

I know living with me and my cancer is difficult, but thank you for never complaining about this untimely guest.

I will love you in life and in death, and I will try, for as long as possible, to be your

Mom

 

The Train

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I know you’ve been dreaming of the train all day. I know that you still are.

I can sense that your breath is trying to fit itself within the rhythmic churning of its wheels as they go round and round the blue forest of your mind.

I know you can smell its smoke through your skin, and feel the cold mist that washes in through its windows in your heart.

What if I tell you that when you wake up you’ll find yourself on this train? That you have been journeying on it all the while you’ve been dreaming. And that all it takes to wake up to reality is to break open your dream. Would you have the courage to abandon sweet thought and place your trust where I ask you to?

I hope you do.

Because I promise that this train will take you to a place more beautiful than the one you dream of.

With love,

Dad