Writing through Liminality

My relationship with the process of putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, is inconsistent at best. Yet, for all my failures as a writer, I have always had a clear vision of the types of stories I wanted to weave: stories with color, texture, light, flavor, depth and soul. Stories that create order, meaning, and beauty, where previously there was only memory and anxious thought.

Liminality is a curious state. In my experience, it appears suddenly and without adequate warning or direction, like the thunderheads that roll in against the afternoon heat. Their billows swollen with water and purpose, yet too tentative to shower the earth below. Liminality can be a catalyst for reckoning. It’s also uncomfortable. But sometimes, so is writing. And writing is not just about sharing my stories, sharing myself. It’s the vehicle that carries me gracefully and haphazardly through liminality.

And then, I remember, the moon is just the moon. It too melts away with the stars. This writer is just a writer, melting into and away with words. Weaving stories, finding reckoning. Writing through liminality.

Good Little Sugar Cookies

1/3 cup shortening

1/3 cup butter

2 cups flour

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon of orange zest

Dash of salt

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add about half the flour, egg, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla and salt. Beat in remaining flour. Fold in orange zest. Flour a counter surface and roll out dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and bake for seven to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool, decorate with frosting and sprinkles, serve, and enjoy!

~~~

I grab a wooden spoon and stick it into softened butter. Pouring sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk, and baking powder together I ask, “Grandma, am I doing this right?”

It’s a struggle to balance the silver, mixing bowl with small hands while blending the ingredients together in yellow and white swirls.

“Yes, you are,” Grandma Chris says, as she adds flour to the mixture.

Melanie and Staci arrange plastic tubes of red-hot cinnamon dots, red and green sprinkles, silver balls, miniature stars, and white candy flowers on the kitchen table. The room is alive with chatter and warmth from the oven. We look forward to making sugar cookies with Grandma every year.

“The secret is the orange zest,” Grandma Chris says adding a heaping tablespoon to the cookie dough. “You only need a little bit, but it makes the cookies taste extra delicious.” She is wearing a red apron over her plaid Christmas sweater. I feel special knowing Grandma trusts me with her secret recipe.

“Grandma, look at all the pretty colors,” Staci says proudly of her arrangement of the cookie decorations lining the kitchen table. She sways along with Amy Grant’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree blasting from the stereo in the living room.

“Can I roll the dough?” Melanie asks, already knowing the answer will be yes. Her blonde hair bobbed just above the shoulders bounces as she rushes to Grandma’s side. They take the dough out of the mixing bowl and put it on the floured kitchen counter. Melanie flattens the round ball with a wooden rolling-pin as Staci and I stand ready to shape it with cookie cutters: gingerbread men and women, stars, Christmas trees, and angel shapes. The fine and powdery flour covers our hands and the Santa Claus painted with colorful puffy paint on the front of Staci’s sweatshirt.

“We have to make a lot of the angels,” I announce. “They are the prettiest to decorate.”

Beep beep, beep beep. The timer alerts everyone that the cookies are ready. “I’ve got them,” I say jumping from my chair and pulling large, well-used pot holders over my hands. Melanie and Staci stir red, green, yellow, and blue food colors into ceramic bowls of sweet cream cheese frosting.

The scent of cookies infuses the entire house. Straight from the oven, the first batch of warm cookies doesn’t make it to the decorating table, but instead into our anxious mouths. “Yum,” Grandma says with a nod of approval.

Grandma takes my hand in hers and gives it a soft squeeze. Her hands are strong and slightly wrinkled with the wisdom of raising children, grandchildren. I wonder, what other hands she has held. Certainly children on the playground at the school where she was a teacher, my father’s, aunt and uncles, Grandpa Drag’s. But what other hands has she held?

“You girls are such good little cookies,” grandma beams, referring to me and my sisters and our productive afternoon baking session. ‘Little cookies’ is a term of endearment in our family, going back several generations. I feel extra special each time she reminds me.

Afternoon Tea

“Grandma can I use this one?” I ask, pointing a porcelain teacup with small hand-painted pink and yellow flowers. The handle spirals from the side like the trumpet vine growing and twisting over her back patio.

“Of course my dear,” she replies casually, trusting, without looking. “But, hold it with two hands.”

I remember she once told me that this beautiful, delicate cup is one of her favorite. Carefully, I remove it from a white wooden shelf next to her Victorian fireplace and carry it into the cheery yellow kitchen. It is almost time for tea.

Grandma Chris is a fairy godmother. Every moment with her seems as though it’s straight from a storybook, magic emerging with each flip of the page. She is also loud, fun, and laughs at everything, even when it’s inappropriate.

While water boils in a silver pot on the stove, I grab my two little sisters and head to Grandma’s closet to dress up for our party. I grab a 1950’s floral print hatbox with rickrack ribbon around the top. Inside lives my favorite peach-colored, wide-brimmed hat with a big bow on the side. It’s a little big for a nine year-old, but I think it suits me well. Melanie, who just turned seven, starts rummaging through scarves as though she’s searching for buried treasure.

“Jackpot,” she shouts, pulling out a scarf with gold and pink flowers in a wild print. She drapes it across her neck and slips a pair of five sizes too big, black high heels on her feet. Her arms are dripping with gold bangles. “Ready when you are,” she announces with a toothless grin.

“Staci, let me help you,” I say to my youngest sister who is fidgeting to find an outfit that won’t swallow her tiny toddler frame. I know sometimes I baby her, but Staci’s only two. And some nights, when our parents are fighting, yelling and screaming in their bedroom with the door closed, no one hears Staci crying, except for me.

“I want that one,” she says, pointing to a small black hat with lace veil.

“Okay, you got it,” I reply. I also pick out a long, multi-strand, amethyst necklace and loop it around her head a couple of times.

“Bring me something fun to wear,” Grandma says from the kitchen. I grab a woven red hat and a glittering diamond broach. I wonder where she wears all of these fancy clothes, other than to tea parties?

As we head back into the kitchen, sunlight filters through a crystal prism in the window and rainbows dance across the table. There is a lace cloth spread over the kitchen table. Our teacup selections, a steaming pot of tea, a platter of cookies, and purple-glass cream and sugar pitchers are also present, and there is a small glass vase with yellow daffodils in the middle of the table.

“Good afternoon ladies,” Grandma says with a smile. We find our places at the teacups we have chosen for the afternoon.

“Would you care for some tea?” she asks using an English accent. It’s only proper to speak like proper English ladies while practicing their time-honored tradition of tea.

“Yes please,” the three of us reply.

Grandma carefully lifts and tips the teapot, with gold trim, toward my cup first. The pot is musical, and it plays Somewhere My Love, Lara’s Theme, from Dr. Zhivago. A soft chiming meets our ears as she pours.

“Grandma, what kind of tea are we having?” Melanie asks.

“Tea please,” Staci says, smiling from cheek to cheek as she kneels on her chair to take in a better view of the party.

“Earl Grey today,” Grandma says. “It’s my favorite.”

“Will you please pass the milk and sugar?” Melanie asks.

“But of course,” I say using my best accent and manners, carefully passing the milk and sugar without spilling.

“Would anyone like a cookie?” Grandma asks. Even though they are store bought and come straight out of a plastic tray and bag, the lemon crème cookies, now sitting on a polished silver dish, are delicious.

“Ooh, yes please,” we all say. I take one of the hard cookies and, not so politely, dunk it into my tea. I quickly place the softened cookie into my mouth and it melts onto my tongue, mixing with the spices in the tea.

“Pinkies up,” Grandma instructs. With that, just like magic, our smallest fingers rise off the handles of our teacups and sip the sweet, warm liquid. We are quite the little ladies seated around that table.

Searching for Saturn

A whisper moves across the desert sky,

sighing softly against the ear of Father Time.

What do you wish for, young child of fate?

To start anew, freedom to dance?

I’ve heard your afflictions, felt your tender wounding.

Know the heart is resilient.

Time to soar on winged chance and

dream into consciousness.