This Christmas I Buried Her Toffee
It feels like something sacred my words will gently press against here.
Like, they won’t get inside it, but they’ll alight upon it.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s just beyond my words.
Recently, I read a manifesto for things ending well, and of the 10 wonderful things listed, Number 8 sweetly awkwardly struck me like an old memory I’d long since forgotten. Number 8 said:
Belong to a place. Give your place a name and refer to yourself with that name. Say: “I am Andrew of the Old Tomato Factory.” Say: “I am Ann of Green Acres.” Say you belong to a river or a grove of shagbark hickories or a community of black vultures. Bury your dead ancestors in your place even if you don’t have ashes. Get some ashes from somewhere and bury those. Bake a loaf of bread from your great grandmother’s recipe and bury that loaf in the backyard. Bury your father’s baseball glove. Notice how well the radishes grow where you planted that body of ancestry. Imagine how your death will feed this place you belong to. Tell your community about this.
I read it again and again.
The bread stuck with me, in particular. To sweat over an oven, to home-make a loaf from a recipe of the dead, and to take that glistening fresh alive thing and bury it in their name, just outside your backdoor. I couldn’t get it out of my head.
And so, this Christmas, I made a batch of my Grandmother's toffee and I buried it. I went out back and sat down next to the plot of yard that also holds my son’s dead fish Namo. I closed my eyes into the cold December sunlight. It wasn’t much, but it was so quiet. I paid attention. I looked for the breeze. I paused a lot, got still, and touched the earth with my hands. I dug a little hole there like a child. I felt like one. I felt childish, a forty-year-old man alone in his backyard, sitting on the ground like a dream. And it felt good. It felt alive. I looked into the planet through my little dug doorway, and I dropped my Grandma Catherine’s toffee into space. And it fit. Perfectly. Feel me brushing the soil over it with my fingers. Feel me pressing and patting it down softly, firmly. Listen to the birds make their noise overhead. I’m breathing. I’m leaning in. My thoughts were with my Grandma. And it was sweet and lovely and I missed her and let myself.
And then, of course, the sudden, very clear afterthought, perhaps as I stood to walk inside, maybe many hours later, but remembered like a constant in me, a forever running vein through my being, I thought…
I hope to live in a way that someone sits present and peaceful when I'm dead, filled with love and memory in the dirt with thoughts of me.
Because as much as this is about my Grandma and how I actively bring her into the world now that she's dead, it is also, potently, completely, sincerely about me.
I'm going to die.
And how I'll be here after I die starts with me, now. Sitting in my backyard in the dirt, I'm sitting with that. Because "Imagine how your death will feed this place you belong to..."
And I realize now, as my words press gently against what’s sacred, that it’s you.
I’m writing here about you.
You’re what’s sacred.
You mortal. You sweet dying thing. You twinkling star. You breeze. You breath.
So share stories about her at Christmas dinner.
Laugh and cry about the things you miss most about her.
Watch home videos of her and weep in all the arms of everyone she left behind.
Say her name.
And be childlike in the dirt for her.
For her, be all the ways a child is, for no one grieves or rejoices like a child.
Make Christmas toffee and bury it.
But do bury them. Always unabashedly.
Bury them again and again and again and again…
And we’ll do the same for you.