As I write, I wear 3 intertwined bracelets that my father’s mother gave me in the 1960s. They jangle on my wrist and remind me of Memere. What a honey she was, a real sweetie.
I visited Memere and Pepere often. Memere made candy. I’d break off edges of nougat and eat them, sometimes big ones, sometimes little so as not to get caught, a child grabbing into pleasantness, a six-year-old learning her first frame of reference for sweetness from her dear grandmother. When I remember her porcelain stove, I still feel connected to her, can inhale the aroma of her boiling syrup and bask in the warmth of her smiles at me. She invited me to help, to roll the taffy before wrapping it in those squares of gray Cut-Rite wax paper. Sometimes she told me to move away so I wouldn’t get burned. I’d skip to the den where Pepere and I sang Maine college songs, his fingers flying over the piano keys as I sat on his lap. Then he’d pick up his trumpet, make fun music. We’d laugh. He was my pal. After his wrists tired, he’d wink, “Let’s go see what Memere’s up to.” Always, we’d all eat what she’d made; marzipan, caramels. We loved especially her Christmas nougats, decorated with red and green cherries, hardened in a springform pan. Mostly, I know now, we loved that togetherness.
Somehow between when they died in the late 1970s and today, I became confused between the sweet goodies she created in her tiny kitchen and the sweet intimacy they created in their cozy home. I’ve mixed up real nourishment with believing that eating Needhams will bring back her chocolate coconut squares, or more likely, their sweet hearts.
No longer a child, in this long holiday season I want to remember that true sweetness is bigger than sugar. To dive into a plate of Christmas cookies or Hanukkah gelt is to miss the oceanic buffet of new birth and new light. To start I breathed in the real treat, beyond their trick-or-treat stash, as I giggled with my silly grandkids dancing around in their Halloween duckie, turtle and orange clown fish costumes.
In yoga, we pick a focal point for our eyes, a fixed gaze the yogis call a drishti, a place to land our attention to help us feel stable and balanced. Through the de-stabilizing and unbalanced holidays, don’t we need a kind and wise drishti? Some yogis say we direct our concentration to realize the genuine view of yoga, the inner view, to look for the Divine everywhere. So this year, if I start to narrow down on the Christmas bonbons, if my gaze gets dragged from the spiced cider to the rum fruitcake, I will stop. I will pay attention to what I am paying attention to and change my inner and outer dristi. From filling up to feeling fulfilled.
If we can find the Divine everywhere, then the Little Prince was right when he said there is “sweetness in the laughter of all the stars.” Memere and Pepere would want me to look for them in such laughter. This year I will savor the exquisite sweetness in the universe like that, and come to know the difference between physical diet and tasty food for the spirit.
To help me focus, to feel into and to digest the emotions of the season, I will also note them…like recipes for true jubilance and cheer. Proverbs 16.24 says, “Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” So I have started a “sweetness is everywhere journal,” in a little notebook with images of twelve cupcakes on the cover, all frosted with different colors, jimmies, some with cherries on top. With gracious words–as a Thanksgiving , a giving thanks—I write my list. Memere’s sweet bracelets jangle on my wrist as I move my pen across the page:
grandkids coming this weekend
crisp fall air
laughing with my friend Karen
crying with my friend Joan
yoga class this morning
My yoga teachers ask, “Where is your attention?” When I hear that inquiry in class, I fix my gaze. Off the mat, when I ask myself that question, I re-center again and again on a steady drishti of “sweetness is everywhere.”
And I wonder, during the long holiday season, what if we asked ourselves, “Where is my focus? What am I paying attention to?”