Warm Milk

When I was little, we always called it “warm milk,” even though it was really hot-chocolate. I don’t know why. Maybe “warm milk” sounds nicer, more wholesome somehow. To this day, though, I still think of it that way.

When I was little, in my grandparents’ home in Los Angeles, I had a cup with a screw-on top. It had handles, and the top was pink. I also had a yellow one, at some point, although I’m not sure which came first. The cup was clear plastic, with little drawing stenciled on it of butterflies and flowers. It was the kind of cup that adults love, because if it falls, very little can spill out of it in the time it takes for the fall to be noticed. It was the kind of cup I loved, too, because it was unique. I was the only one who drank out of it.

The taste of warm milk with chocolate Nesquick mixed into it brings me memories of that house where I used to drink out of that cup. The smell of the wooden floors in the kitchen seem to magically rise into my nostrils, as well as the smell of cleaning supplies that accompanied any late night in that kitchen, seeing as how my grandfather always cleaned the kitchen meticulously after dinner.

It is so strange, somehow, the way memories rise at such trivial moments, such as a regular Friday evening. The taste of warm milk is still in my mouth.

With Eyes Shut

I sit in front of my computer. My screen is showing the “Add New Post” page on my Worpress blog. I have nothing to say. I sit, and I stare, and my fingers ache from keeping the awkward position of just hovering above the keyboard. My mind feels blank.

And yet, I stop thinking for a moment. I stop trying to plan what I want to say. I realize that as I’ve been sitting here, I’ve been feeling a whole range of things quite outside the blank page on my screen and my thoughts on how to fill it. I shut my eyes.

I take a deep breath. My mother is cooking in the kitchen. She’s making a breaded chicken dish, and it smells wonderful. In fact, it smells so strongly that I know the people in the apartments below us can smell it too. I’m sure that they, like me, are salivating, feeling a sudden urge to eat something fried.

I let my breath out, and concentrate on my hearing. I can hear the sound of the sizzling chicken in the pan, and for a moment my sense of smell takes over again. I shift my concentration back to my ears, those oddly shaped things sticking to the sides of my head, and listen. I can hear my mother talking to the cats. I can hear Massive Attack playing on the stereo. Odd music, but beautiful. Part of the sounds of home in a way.

I think of my mouth, my sense of taste, and I realize that the smell in my nostrils is so dominant that I can almost taste the food already. I let it go, knowing that soon enough I will be tasting it in truth.

Finally, I think of my fingers, and the way they feel gliding blindly along the keyboard. They’re on familiar territory, and I feel that they’re hardly in my control because they manage to move so fast, darting from one key to the next and making another sound for my ears to hear – the tick-tack-click-clack of the keys being pushed down hard, each one only for a moment before my fingers jump over to the next key. If I’d look down and see how fast they were moving, or how oddly they looked, I would probably lose my focus entirely and they’d tangle up and make mistakes. Best to let my fingers alone and let them do as they will.

I open my eyes. I see the end result, the thing I was striving for – a full page.

The Baker

The Baker had been known for years as just that: the Baker. Some knew his name, of course, but most didn’t. He didn’t mind. Being a baker was his pride, his profession and the thing he loved most, and he was pleased to be so well known amongst the others of his trade so as to be the only man called The Baker in the whole market. He knew he was a good baker. Little girls begged their papas to buy his cinnamon rolls, boys filched their mama’s coins so as to get a raisin filled treat, youths brought their blushing young ladies to his stall for a warm apple turnover to share on wintry days, and the poor, eyes wide with hunger and bellies swollen, came to his back door for the many loaves of stale bread that he would have leftover at the end of each week. The Baker was a warm-hearted man, and always made too much bread – accidentally, of course.

He awoke every day of the week before the sun had even risen. He liked to work that early, because the mornings were cool enough so that the sweltering hot oven didn’t make him sweat too much at first as he began to heat it up for the long day. He had different assistants over the years – some stayed and some left. They all left in the end, though, to marry, to have children, to open their own stall or to change trades entirely. The Baker stayed constant, and could never envision doing aught different.

When he had been a child, he’d been rail-thin. He had been the kind of boy who had arms as thin as sticks, a belly-button that puckered out because his stomach was so flat, and ribs that seemed to almost poke out. As he grew, his thin arms developed muscle and his belly rounded a little, all while helping his uncle in kitchens of the big house they lived in. His uncle taught him to bake. Not to cook, no, the Baker never enjoyed cooking meals, but he loved working with any and all kinds of dough, and he became good at it. When his uncle died and the rich family they worked for kicked him out, he’d found work at a smith, as an assistant. It was his strong arms, muscled with constant kneading of dough, that had gotten him that job. He worked, and worked and worked some more, hating the smell of burnt metal and hot coal and the mixed, unpleasant scent of sweat-soaked leather aprons and smoke. But the Baker worked, and when he’d saved enough coin, he opened his bakery stall in the market, as far from the smithy as possible.

He stayed, and his stall grew, and his rolls and pastries and cakes became known, and he became a real baker, The Baker. He never knew aught else – for even as a servant boy and later an assistant smith, he was always thinking of the way clean flour looked on a wooden board and the way dough felt in his hands and the the way a freshly baked loaf would be just that perfect shade of golden-brown. He never knew aught else, and he would never do aught different, not if it were up to him.

What Happiness Is

Happiness is a feeling of contentment.
Happiness is the smell of a book.
Happiness is a fresh breeze on your face.
Happiness is the first time you see snow.
Happiness is the sound of your favorite band.
Happiness is the taste of that food you loved when you were a kid.
Happiness is interesting conversation with a friend.

Happiness can be faked.
Happiness can be denied.
Happiness can be pushed away.
Happiness can be welcomed.
Happiness can be nurtured.
Happiness can be caressed.

Happiness is the sparkle in the eye of someone who loves you.
Happiness is cuddling all through a cold night with someone who loves.
Happiness is a weekend of pure fun with someone who loves you.
Happiness is knowing you have someone who loves you.

Happiness is unique.
Happiness is individual.
Happiness is knowing all is well right now.

It occurs to me that I have written what might just constitute as cheesy Hallmark-card material. Still, to my mind it’s all true, and I had a good day yesterday and wanted to express it somehow. Even in a Hallmark way.

Sniff

Leaning out of the window, bringing in the laundry, hands touching the cold clothing hanging in the cold air, I catch a scent. Just a whif at first, and then the smell fills my nostrils, and I breath it deeply, tears gathering in my eyes. It’s the smell of latkes, this sort of potato-patty thing – it’s a traditional thing to cook during the Jewish holiday, Hannukah, which is ending tonight. Why is it that the enticing smell of fried potatos makes my eyes water? My father used to make them every holiday time, and when I was smaller and ate an even smaller variety of foods than I eat today, I hated the smell. Today though, it makes me hungry to smell it and cry to think that my father won’t ever make it again and I’ll never get to show him that I might like his cooking for once.

It’s incredible how smell triggers the memory, isn’t it? The smallest of scents blown into your nostrils from a tiny breath of wind can remind you vividly of a sumemr’s day when you got your first kiss, of a night of partying with friends, of a person you haven’t seen for a long time or of a place you miss and long to be in. It’s amazing, in my mind, how smells can bring up memories long forgotten or ignored.

Sniff away, then, I say – you may discover some feeling or time you hardly remember.

Comfort Books

There is a particular type of book – I suppose it must be very individual for each person, but generally this type of book is either a favorite novel, well thumbed and read many times, a book from childhood with a silly story but beautiful writing, or sometimes even just a Peanuts comic-book from the sixties. These books are comfort, at least to me.
When I’m feeling horrible, or just down and sad for no reason, all I need is to pick up a book like this, tuck myself into bed, and read for a couple hours.
The yellow pages seem the most beautiful thing in the world and the crinkle as I turn them is like music to my ears. The smell – ah, the smell! I sometimes literally pause in my reading and bury my nose in the spine, sniffing up the memories of childhood, when I first read the book, or the countless bus-rides and walks to school when I read it, or even just the memory of being exactly where I’m sniffing, curled up in my bed, just a few months or years beforehand.
Some people have comfort foods – ice-cream, chocolate, warm milk. I have comfort books.