I know it's the holidays when Mom stands on a stool to reach the high kitchen cupboard and pass down the box holding the cookie press. A dozen aluminum disks stand in their slots, but we've only ever used the tree and the wreath. The rest of the year the dough gets dumped onto the pan by the spoonful.
But for Christmas, the dough is colored green and red. It's chilled for an hour in the fridge. Mom fills the press and my sister and I try to produce something resembling trees and wreaths. It takes years, but by sixth grade they're almost recognizable.
One Christmas in my thirties, I ask Mom for the cookie press.
"Sure. Take it." Mom never cared about "stuff."
I don't press cookies with my daughters because when I take the box from my high kitchen cupboard, I see the press is broken. I put it back in the cupboard. Move it to three different houses. Until one day I see one at a garage sale.
I keep them both high in the cupboard until the next time I move, when I swap out the broken parts. A niggling voice says it's not technically your mother's cookie press anymore. But in my new kitchen I stand on a stool and put the box in a cupboard above the refrigerator.
The first Christmas after my mother's death I think about making cookies in the shape of trees and wreaths. But maybe I've lost the art, and it won't bring her back.
It won't bring back precious childhood moments, the excitement of Christmas coming, the fun of a contraption that squeezes out perfect trees and wreaths once you learn to end the "press" at the exact right nanosecond.
The niggling voice says I ought to stop saving stuff. My daughters don't care about stuff. And the understanding is deep in my bones now, the knowing that moments are fleeting and never recaptured. Even those stored safely away in the highest kitchen cupboard. ♦
Mary Cronk Farrell is an award-winning author and former journalist who writes about little-known historical women finding courage and strength through struggle. Learn more about her books at marycronkfarrell.com.