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 a nameless color.
Remove from heat. Add marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped walnuts, vanilla extract. “I wish I could hear your voice again” I thought, stirring vigorously for a full minute in compliance with your instructions. I loved you for exactly who you were. No labeling, no naming. Forget “woman”, forget “grandma”, forget “Ruth”. Just the person you were, how you saw the world, how you expressed yourself, the light inside the bulb.
I thought about your losses while I poured the mixture into a pan lined with 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 December, scraping them into an 8-inch square pan.
In a way, it is with your hands that I lift it from the pan once it’s chilled, because I do so in honor of your spirit. It is with your fingers that I cut the finished confection into little pieces. And it is with your heart of hearts that I display them on a platter, arrange them in a tin, or in little bags tied with ribbons, and give them away.