I came across the recipe in your old index card box, alphabetically misplaced between Fruitcake and Fritter Batter. “I miss you”, I said aloud as I measured out the sugar, butter, salt and evaporated milk. The cat looked at me expectantly, thinking – as he always does – that I was speaking to him. I combined the ingredients in a small pot, boiled and stirred them for five minutes. Outside, the sun tried its best to shine down on weeds turned brown from ice and frost.
I followed your handwriting with my eyes, blue ink letters across a 4 x 6 ruled index card. You had good penmanship, easy to read. The card must have been white when you wrote on it, but now it was one of those nameless colors – the shade left behind when someone you love dearly has been dead for years.
Remove from heat. Add marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped walnuts, vanilla extract. “I wish I could hear your voice again”, I thought as I stirred vigorously for one minute. I loved you for who you were. No labeling, no naming. Forget “woman”, forget “grandma”, forget “Ruth”. I loved you just as the person you were, how you saw the world, how you expressed yourself.
I thought about your losses while I poured the mixture into a pan lined with tin foil and set it in the refrigerator. You lost husbands, parents, your daughter, your brother. You lost them all and still you sang and danced, brewed coffee, fixed martinis, greeted everyone cheerfully, and followed this recipe just as I am doing now. All that loss, loss, loss, and still you stirred these ingredients every holiday season, scraping them into a square pan lined with foil.
In a way, it is with your hands that I lift it from the pan once it’s chilled. It is with your fingers that I cut the finished confection into little pieces. And it is with your heart of hearts that I arrange them on a platter, in a tin, or in colorful bags, and give them away.