I wonder, when we get to take that final earthly flight as we are leaving our bodies and we visit events of our human existence, you know, like people who have had near death experiences talk about?...I wonder if things will look like they actually were or just how we remember them.
We drove through Ucon, Idaho last year, on our way home from Island Park. We worked our way through the grid of small town streets until something looked familiar enough to me that I could find my Aunt Becky and Uncle Richard’s house. They moved from that home years ago, and I recall it only from visits in the childhood summers. As I never drove to it as an adult, I wasn’t sure where to go. That place, that house, those people were pivotal in my life. So when I found it, there on the corner, it was surprisingly small and simple, really rather plain to tell the truth. Fabulously, beautifully simple. As a child it was a huge haven of comfort and acceptance, radiating love through the windows and doors. I suspect that the gilded edges were painted by a young, vulnerable girl who lived thousands of miles away, and whose life included seven moves to different houses and apartments, an alcoholic father, and teachers in Pennsylvania who checked for the nubs of horns on our Mormon foreheads. It was natural for me to see the light in that little house in Ucon, Idaho, and to want to bathe in it.
The source of that light was Divine, but the facilitator was my Aunt Becky. The youngest in my mother’s family, born about five years after my mom, Rebecca must have been a joyful surprise to her family. I think my grandmother was 45 years old when she gave birth. I figure this by working my way back from my grandmother’s death at the age of 54, when Becky was nine years old. I think about that little girl, the age of two of my grandchildren now, and I weep at the thought of it. Becky and my mom, having lost their maternal footing, were kind of passed from home to home until they were grown. It still amazes me that both of them have such strong and well-developed maternal skills when they lost their mother at such young ages. I think of Aunt Becky as my other mother, and yet I think of her as a sister, too. We both share March birthdays, and we are both creative. She has a poet heart and a poet mind, and I think I do, too. She is an artist, and a thinker, and tender and kind and very funny but not irreverent. And on top of that she is physically beautiful, her smile so sincere, and her hair flowing and lovely. It has become snowy white now, like my mother’s was, and their similarity makes me ache and rejoice at the same instance every time I see her.
Though we lived so far away, and peoples’ tendency is “out of sight, out of mind”, there are little gifts that she mailed to us that are prominent in my memory. One year for Christmas she sent each of us books. Mine was Go Dog Go, and Libby got One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I don’t recall what Ann Marie got, probably something more difficult to read. And another year she sent us little bottles of lotion, one in an Eskimo shaped container and the other in a snowman. I lay on the bed with my grandkids now and read Dr. Seuss and think of my Aunt Becky every single time. Every time! And I want my treasures to feel about me the way I felt about her.
Aunt Becky and Uncle Richard shifted everybody in that little simple house in Ucon each summer when we came to visit. We pulled up in our station wagon, our hair all muffed and our clothes wrinkled from the hot ride. We took our turns waiting for the bathroom, then gathered around the kitchen table where whatever was available in the fridge was spread out like the fatted calf for the prodigal son. There were ten people living in that house, so when we arrived it bulged like the mitten in that children’s book. Nonetheless, everyone shifted and never made us feel invasive. I credit my cousins with the same gift, being so welcoming. I have been a teenager, and I have raised some, and I know it is no small thing for hormonally driven humans to move over for anyone or anything. But they did, bless their souls. I noticed, even then. And I notice still.
On those hot summer evenings, in the days before air conditioning, there was an unspoken rule that the oven was not to be used, except for maybe a Sunday dinner roast. It just added to the sweltering heat. So the go-to Home Evening treat was No Bake Cookies. Each time I make these I am taken back to Idaho, to our own small house on Elm Street in Shelley, and to that beautiful Miskin home in Ucon. Sometimes the Miskins would add peanut butter to the recipe, but we Hansens were chocolate purists. My Aunt Mary added peanut butter to everything. Maybe that overdose turned me off. Anyway, here’s the old faithful NO BAKE COOKIE recipe. They make up super quick, and you can do what we all did growing up: pinch those little droplets that fell between the cookies between your thumb and forefinger, raise them to your lips, and indulge. It was a big deal when I was finally old enough to actually lay my finger down under a warm wet cookie and scrape the whole dang thing up into my mouth. That’s when I knew I had finally arrived with both feet in adult independence.
My Aunt Becky has lived through an awful lot, beginning with great loss in her childhood. She has survived cancer, and surgeries, multiple child births, a devastating hurricane that destroyed her home, and the death of her eternal companion. Still, that smile of hers emits a familiar glow, the same light that radiated from that little home in Ucon. I know that light is the Lord’s, but the keeper of the flame? That would be my Aunt Becky.
NO BAKE COOKIES
(you’ll need waxed paper)
2 c. sugar
½ c. milk (For a yummy cookie I use canned milk)
½ c. butter
3 T. baking cocoa
dash of salt
1 t vanilla
3 c. dry oatmeal (quick oats or regular Old Fashioned Oats)
Heat to boiling: sugar, milk, butter, cocoa, and salt, stirring constantly. Boil one minute. Add vanilla and oatmeal. Drop onto waxed paper and let cool, roughly a half hour.
Options:- add 2 T corn syrup to make gooier cookies. or add ¼ c peanut butter.
At Easter we add dyed shredded coconut and jelly beans to make little nests.
Put a couple drops of food coloring in a baggie, add shredded coconut and shake.
Add while to cookie is still warm and soft.