What Matters Today: The ‘Who’

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? So much time has passed between the last time I’ve written and this present moment and so many things have happened in my life and in the world beyond in that span, yet it all compresses into a single frame that is just barely in focus. I can recall details and dates, events and emotions, but it passed by so quickly — and so slowly — all at once. But when the Covid-19 virus rages on and life is contained to but one location more often than not, I would be willing to wager that I’m not the only one to experience this phenomenon.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s been so long that time finally put a period at the end of the long and tortuous story that was 2020 and began the new chapter of 2021. Between my last post and now, I’ve celebrated three holidays, two family members’ birthdays, and a milestone wedding anniversary all within the walls of my home, without typical fanfare, and with masks and social distancing instead. With holidays lacking their traditional gatherings, I’ve also baked more than I ever have, making cookies and cakes alike to share with family and friends. But even in the kitchen, keeping things traditional in a year that had been anything but traditional felt off.

Of course, I baked some of the time-honored family recipes I’ve learned from my mother, such as our chocolate clove cookies and butter balls (an annual favorite of my brother). But I also added some to that list, including magic bars and double chocolate peppermint bark pretzel cookies — a Frankenstein creation concocted on the fly from a regular double chocolate cookie recipe that turned into a delightful holiday treat. But I couldn’t end it at that, not when there were so many people I knew I wouldn’t see over the holidays. For my best friend and her family, I dropped off on their porch a pumpkin loaf cake with orange glaze. For my uncle and his family, a chocolate chip coffee cake. If we weren’t going to celebrate together, at least when they sliced into their cakes, they had a little piece of my love right there with them.

Now that I reflect on the final weeks of 2020, I realize I spent much of my time in the kitchen. Even as I anticipated the start of a new year, there I was. For my family’s last meal of 2020, it was time to add a bit of levity to an otherwise heavy year, so I kept it as fun as I could think, making a wonderful macaroni and cheese recipe that we loved from the first time I made it earlier in the year, as well as a dessert of vanilla cupcakes with lemon buttercream. I must confess, however, that making a white cupcake has become an odd tradition of mine — while it largely stemmed from a family member’s disdain for chocolate (I don’t know how this is possible), it has continued as a motif of receiving a fresh start once the clock strikes midnight at the start of a new year.

But finding my sweet spot in the kitchen wasn’t the only way I’ve seen my days pass into weeks and eventually, a whole new year.

I’ve continuously hosted and participated in virtual hangouts with family and friends, put my iPhone to good use with calls and texts, and even managed to squeeze in some driveway and over-the-fence visits with loved ones. I’ve maintained and grown connections with those I’ve long held dear and bolstered some new ones. I even saw the conclusions of some relationships and grappled with their finality, taking stock of what I learned while also making sure to tend to myself in the process.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? It’s funny how as the days pass, we hardly take note of the things time produced and fostered, as well as the things it slowly dissolved and let go of. It’s odd how the time passes, blurring our vision as it does, and by the time we pick up our heads, we have different view of what we experienced, of who we are, and of what is to come. In our rearview mirror, we see time softening some experiences while solidifying others.

I now find myself standing 10 days into 2021, and already so much has happened in the world, both in my little microcosm and far, far beyond. I don’t know what the coming hours or days, weeks or months will bring — not for me, my family, my friends, or my coworkers, and certainly not in our country and in our world. Each fleeting second is uncertain. 2020 definitely taught us that. But personally, it taught me something else.

It taught me that no matter how quickly the time passes or how we spend our time, what matters the most is who we spend that time with. What matters today is not what we bake or what we cook, not the demands of our jobs or the complexities our world presents. What matters today, and every day with which we are granted more time on this earth, is who we are baking and cooking with and for. It’s who we can confide in at work that make the days a little easier to get through. It’s who we call, text, or video chat with, just to bring them a little bit closer than Covid-19 allows. What matters is never the what, but the the who in our lives that makes it all a little easier to get through.

Today, I know who matters to me, and I thank this strange progression of time for showing me that. I hope you too, dear reader, has come to know and value just who in your life makes each day a little better, a little brighter, and a little lighter.