Two days ago, my little brother texted me: “Personality question of the night, what kind of peanut butter do you prefer?”
“Depends,” I responded. “Chunky for sandwiches; smooth for everything else.”
“I’m actually the same way lmao, alright thanks,” he shot back. End of conversation.
Incidentally, he posed that question after I’d spent the last week making four batches of peanut butter cookies, the kind with chocolate kisses in them. I truthfully can’t remember if our mother actually made these — formally called “peanut butter blossoms” on Pinterest — at Christmastime, or whether she made them in March or October or whenever else the mood hit her. But over the years I’ve come to associate them with December holidays, and that’s when I whip them up.
In college, I once wrote a poem about my mother and her peanut butter cookies, which she made out of Betty Crocker mixes from the grocery store. That was in November of my senior year, I remember, and that year I made them between Halloween and Thanksgiving. (It’s beautiful and disturbing how I can remember that fact, but I can’t remember the combination to my bike’s lock or my grandparents’ anniversary.)
When I shared that poem in my poetry class workshop, I remember feeling very satisfied with myself. Poetry provided a space where I could be as wry and as bitter as I wanted, without coming off as off-putting as I might in an essay or short story. (Or in person.) In content, I essentially credited my mother with teaching me how to bake cookies and second-guess myself. (I was a very bitter person in college.)
Anyway, I think about that poem whenever I make peanut butter cookies, which means, as well, that when I make peanut butter cookies, I think about my estranged mom, too. And I get all mixed up in my head about the glorious clusterfuck it truly is to have a human brain that is at once bitter and angry but also nostalgic, if not for something specific, then for a certain youthful optimism which allows you to take pleasure from certain aspects of your life, despite reality. Because really, finding the good parts in your bad memories is one of the best methods I’ve learned for moving forward from life chapter to life chapter. I think it’s key to our survival. Because otherwise, what’s the point.
hoping you enjoy your december traditions for the joy they bring you, xo