Long ago, when I was in undergraduate school, I spent a lot of time yearning for a kitchen. I missed baking bread. When the holidays approached, I missed baking cookies.
Luckily, I had a friend, an older guy, who had had his college career interrupted by the war in Vietnam. He returned to school to finish up, and our paths crossed in 1984.
He had a small house that he inherited when his mother died. So a group of us would go over periodically. We'd play Trivial Pursuit and watch old movies on TV. At Christmas, he offered his kitchen. We made cookies and homemade eggnog. We helped decorate his tree.
I've lost touch with him. I've lost touch with so many people.
I try to remember that I've stayed in touch or recovered connections with lots of people too. And there are new people to walk beside. Tomorrow, I'll have some of them over in the middle of the day. And in the evening, I'll go out to look at lights with another friend.
Thirty years from now, will I be missing those people too? Or will we still be getting together on Dec. 23, a tradition started long ago?
Twelve or thirteen years ago, I was thinking about lost friends and homemade eggnog, and I wrote the poem below.
Now I'm tempted to write a different version. When I wrote the poem below, I had yet to rediscover so many friends through Facebook. The ways we might have betrayed each other seem much less dramatic than the ways we are betrayed now. I might write a poem about how we should cherish the homemade eggnog while we still can, since we're not sure of when our last Christmas might be.
Or maybe I grow tired of these melodramatic endings. Maybe I could just write a simple poem that proclaims the joys of butterfat.
But I won't revise right now. Below is the poem as I wrote it, years before Facebook, years before anyone had cancer.
Back before we knew the fat grams of every food,
back before we worried about salmonella and other exotic
sounding creatures lurking in food, waiting to poison
us, back when eggs were the perfect food, not
cholesterol time bombs. Back in those innocent
days, we make homemade eggnog.
We do not cook the eggs. We separate
yolk from white, just as we are apart
from our families. We beat sugar into yolks
the color of sunshine, some sweetness
into the darkness of solstice days.
We whip air into the whites, we beat
them into a frenzy, the way that exams have stirred
us up, the way that school plots of our own devising
pump us full of the air of our own self-importance.
I pour cream into the mixture, cream clotted
with the richness of butterfat. In later years, I will create
cooked eggnog with skim milk, a pitiful
affair, thin and runny, not worth remembering.
We blend the fluffed whites into the sugary concoction.
Carefully, we fold until the separate ingredients
cannot be teased apart again. We dip out cups
for everyone and toast our eternal friendship.
I feel nourishment seep into every cell
as I fix the faces of my friends into my brain.
I cannot imagine a time when I will forsake
eggnog as too fatty, when I will be too busy
to create from scratch. I cannot dream
that I will lose touch with these friends, cannot fathom
the many ways in which we will betray each other.
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