homecoming season…

May 09, 2014

I believe traditions remind us of who we are when we’re in danger of forgetting.
Both The Goodbye Quilt and How I Planned Your Wedding (a funny memoir I wrote with my daughter, Elizabeth) are about letting go and moving on in the most loving way possible. As the school year comes to an end, the fact that your nest is empty stares you in the face.
If your daughter or son has gone away to college, like Molly in The Goodbye Quilt, she is now coming home as a “guest” in the house where she grew up. When this happened in my life, I finally understood the whole point of family traditions that revolve around food. A strong tradition, no matter how unconventional, is a bit like a short cut. It’s a cue to remind us to slip back into celebration mode without having to reinvent the wheel.
I wasn’t prepared for those odd moments of awkwardness when Elizabeth walked into the house on her first trip home from college. After a gleeful reunion with the dogs, her old favorite things and the freakishly neat room that used to be such a mess, she didn’t quite seem to know what to do with herself. Should she unpack that suitcase full of dirty clothes? Call her friends, play the piano, go for a walk? It was like being in an alternate reality. For a moment, we were unhappy, uncertain.
Then I said, “Let’s put on music and bake cookies.”
Within minutes, we’d fallen back into our roles–mom and daughter, goddesses in the kitchen, legends in our own minds, singing at the tops of our lungs. It was the start of a wonderful homecoming, and a reminder of who we are…at our brightest and most kind.

Speaking of cookies, here is my most-requested holiday recipe from a previous novel, Lakeshore Christmas:

Jane Bellamy’s Mint Meltaways
“My old family recipe was a secret, until we realized everybody else knew about this perfect pairing of chocolate and mint.”
(48 cookies)
Ingredients
¾ cup butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons crème de menthe liqueur or water
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
24 Andes Mints
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, brown sugar, and crème de menthe liqueur (or water), stirring occasionally.
Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Let stand 10 minutes to cool. Add the remaining ingredients and combine with a spatula to form a soft dough.
4. Wrap the dough and chill at least 1 hour.
5. Roll the dough into 1½ inch balls and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving ample space between the dough balls. Bake 8 to 9 minutes.
6. Remove the cookies from the oven, and on top of each cookie, place half of an Andes Mint. Allow the mint to melt and then swirl with the back of a spoon.

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Categories : books
| 1 Comment
  • Susan, thank you for this insight into your “empty nest” scenario. I felt the same way when my youngest, also an Elizabeth, went away to school. The first couple of times home felt out of synch – until dad warmed up the grill and everyone became his sou chef, prep tech and pastry chef! Tomorrow my Elizabeth graduates and, even though she is staying where she is for grad school, I feel a finality this morning that the empty nest is permanently no longer the nest that it was. So I have chosen to use a different name for this new time in life – it is the Open Nest. Open to new people to adopt into the family, new events, new ministries, new adventures.
    Thank you for your wonder words, books and examples. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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