As I write, I wear a bangle with three intertwined strands that my father’s mother gave me in 1967. 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 fudge and savor them, big ones, or little ones so as not to get caught, a child reaching for pleasantness, a six-year-old learning her first idea of sweetness from her dear grandmother. Remembering her in her full apron stirring yumminess on her cream-colored porcelain stove, I feel connected to her, can inhale the aroma of the boiling syrup and bask in the warmth of her smiles. We rolled taffy before we wrapped it in squares of gray Cut-Rite wax paper. Sometimes she told me to move away, “don’t get burned.”
We’d eat what she’d made; marzipan, caramels, nougats with red and green cherries hardened in a springform pan. Her love languages sang through family and food.
Somehow between baker’s helper and grown woman, I became confused between the sweet goodies she created and the sweet intimacy my grandparents nurtured in their cozy home. I’ve mixed up deep life-force nourishment with believing that eating Needhams will bring back her chocolate coconut squares, or more likely, their sweet hearts. Sometimes a brownie is just a brownie, of course. Yet sometimes we look for love in all the wrong places. True sweetness is bigger than sugar. Ben and Jerry can’t satisfy a craving for relationship. Sarah Lee won’t meet the yearnings for grandmother.
In yoga, we pick a focal point for our eyes, so that we land our attention for stability and balance. Through de-stabilizing and unbalanced climate changes, through upheavals in politics, through Covid isolation, don’t we need a kind and wise focus? In spring, it’s easy and tempting to narrow our focus to Easter peeps or Passover macaroons. But, if our gaze is only on these jelly beans or those meringues, how do we see the bigger picture of what spring brings? Can we continue to distance physically without distancing from our sweet social contacts whether via zoom, facetime or a masked walk? In spring when we change the clocks, to what do we paying attention? Can we widen our focus from simply filling up to feeling fulfilled with more light, with more warmth on the way? Something bigger than Snickers. The Little Prince was right when he said there is “sweetness in the laughter of all the stars.”
I keep a “sweetness is everywhere journal,” a little notebook with images of twelve cupcakes on the cover, frosted with different colors, jimmies, some with cherries on top. Daily I write my sweetness list. Memere’s sweet bracelets jangle on my wrist as I move my pen across the page:
walking at sunrise
laughing with my friend Jane
crying with my friend Jodi
hiking with my cousin Nancy
breathing in the scent of lavender in the bubble bath
gazing at the Casco Bay Islands
feeling soft clothes on my skin
hearing the chatter of grandkids
The list goes like that, a no longer six-year-old with no need to reach for pleasantness; it is right here if we allow ourselves to taste all of it, to digest it.
Yoga teachers ask, “Where is your attention?”
When I hear that in class, I fix my gaze. Off the mat, when I ask myself that question, I re-center on “sweetness is everywhere.”
This spring, what if we asked ourselves, “Where is my focus? To what am I paying attention?”