We hoarded them. We dreamed about them. We craved them.
All three of us were derumpled from our languorously dreamy Sunday afternoon. Candyland, Scrabble, and Monopoly mixed together and shoved messily back into their boxes. Smudged faces hastily wiped clean with a wet washcloth.
Why do we have to get dressed up? Because.
One of us has to be in the middle. Through the car window we watch the linked telephone poles guiding us, rhythmically moving us forward, further and further down the road. Almost there! On our knees we turn to look through the back window of the car. We’ve been waiting for it! At last we look up.
A cathedral of elms links their arms together in verdant welcome, arching over Lauder Avenue, the light tipping tenderly in and out of the shadows, Sainte-Chapelle itself on the streets of Detroit.
At last and then we were there. Grandma and Papa’s house.
A run up the staircase—a Wide World of Sports slide down again on our stomachs, dipping sharp to our left just at the landing. Over and over. Like the rusty hinges on the vault of Croesus, the refrigerator door creaks open. Bottle after bottle of pop emerges! Pry off the caps and slurp straight from the bottle.
A tableclothed and proudly arrayed dinner of roasts and fricassees and loaves holding their breath, awaiting the requisite slicing. A tiny, solitary dish of Birds Eye mixed vegetables, isolated, untouched, alone.
Papa is there, enthroned in his armchair, munching the heart of the lettuce, saved specially for him. Lawrence Welk bubbles onto the screen in the living room, just behind the Geritol ad, delighted as always to introduce, “The lovely little Lennon girls.”
Too soon, time to go. Anxiously, from the depths of the kitchen, my Grandma Anne emerges, clutching the chock full tins that she pushes into our hands. The Mandelbrot. We’ve been waiting for it.
Pressed into the tins, studded with chocolate chips and arrayed as a glorious fan, they are in fact the most tenacious of cookies, tough and twice baked. My sisters and I stuff them in as fast as we can. My Grandmother wonders, will we remember? We will and we do. Twice baked, these cookies last.
Over the years my memory has become sharpened at points, softened at others, like the undulating yet jagged edges of a fractal. A simple equation resulting in infinite complexity.
No matter. And the recipe itself? Precisely written in my Grandmother’s even hand my sisters and I possess several versions on just as many scraps of paper. Half or three quarters of a cup of sugar? Walnuts or almonds? Butter or oil? My continued mismeasuring is a messy equation in and of itself.
And yet, no matter how much or or how little of each written ingredient I put in, every time I bake my Grandmother’s mandelbrot they seem to come out perfectly, just as I remember. How can that be?
I only know that our Grandmother loved us. We could taste it. And that undefinable thing that is love is both transcendent and transformative and sometimes even magical, mixed into a million different batches in a million different ways.