And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
--Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree," Christine read.
Outside, the winter had overtaken the entire world. The snow plummeted toward the earth, reaching the ground with quiet inevitability. The snow, she thought, would make the tree feel less lonely. Or, otherwise, it certainly ought to. It always made her feel secure. The wintry blanket on the ground always left a trail of quiet lingering in the air behind it. That quiet made her feel that nothing truly bad could happen in that quiet. It seemed like the world was given respite, for a few hours, from all the evil that must occur in it. The cold and the quiet conspired together to give this city a sense of peace. Christine liked that.
She bit into a hamantaschen. She had made them herself last night, because she had already polished off the large tin that had been delivered to work. (oops). She rolled the thick dough around in her mouth, the rough texture combining well with the sweet relief of the jam. It was good. Not as good as the ones Ms. Waltz had sent her. But hers tasted like home, whereas the ones Ms. Waltz had sent her tasted like a very fancy bakery. Not that anything was wrong with very fancy bakery cookies. But they are sort of sterile. Fancy bakery cookies are like cats that have no will of their own and do everything you tell them. No self-respecting cat, she thought, should do everything that you tell it to. A cat ought to have a certain amount of mystique. Will she do what I ask? Won't she? A cat's social currency is the unknown, that margin of uncertainty. Without it, she has lost the power in the relationship, and has become a dog.
Her mother always said you put your heart into your cooking; so you better not have a bitter heart, otherwise everyone will taste it. Her father always claimed he could taste in the pasta sauce if her mother was mad at him. She always rolled her eyes, and her mother always glowered darkly. But, perhaps there was something to that. If Christine could name the feelings that flavored her small hamantaschen, she would say: nostalgia. Yes. Undoubtedly.
She took another bite of another cookie (yikes. there were only three left. She would turn into a hamantaschen herself if she didn't stop this gorging.) and she felt the nostalgia pierce her tongue like lemon juice. Yes, certainly nostalgia.
She wonder how anyone could have baked this much longing for the past into a cookie. As she took another bite, she was overwhelmed by thinking of all the days that had passed that could have been so different, all of the memories that had solidified and crystallized like sugar molecules into cookie dough. Just as she was unable to unravel the bonds that had formed between these disparate parts, she could not unravel the story that had woven itself out of her life. But how she wished she could.
She wanted to reverse whatever chemical process had occurred in the oven, and transform these cookies back into a soggy heap of flour, sugar, and eggs. But that was impossible.
She took another bite of hamantaschen and stared out into the snow.