I won’t go into the psychological state that resulted in my coming home yesterday with two different bags of cookies and a gallon of milk, other than to say it had been years since I had last done that. Nor were they small packages of gourmet cookies, the only sort I normally indulge in, but Oreos and store brand chocolate chip.
When I poured a large glass of milk and ripped open the Oreos, I was suddenly transported more than 45 years into the past, to an afternoon when my mother and baby brother were asleep, and my father (who worked second shift) not yet awake. The memory was so vivid I nearly saw double, my own fingers superimposed over a five year old’s, as they dunked the Oreo into the milk. I honestly didn’t know for a moment whether my fingertips really were that cold, or if I was remembering how cold my fingertips got in the milk as I waited for the Oreo to become completely saturated with milk before eating it.
Understand that this is a delicate moment- the cookie must be totally soaked to be at the peak of perfection, but not so soaked as to fall apart into the milk and have to be retrieved with a spoon. Not that I would have, actually; cookie etiquette called for you to get a new cookie instead, and drink the sludge later. The memory didn’t fail me; I timed the dip perfectly, the cookie squishing delightfully in my mouth, the edge that had been between my fingers the only dry spot, like Achilles' heel.
The five year old cookie expert’s eye noted that the chocolate chip cookie didn’t have the structural integrity to saturate in the cup; it would have fallen apart almost instantly. Without thinking I shifted to the alternate milk protocol: I bit off a piece, but did not chew, holding it in my mouth as I took a sip of milk and held them together until the cookie was saturated before smooshing it against the roof of my mouth with my tongue.
I’m not a person noted for my keen memory- there are people I’ve sat next to at church for ten years whom I still need to read the nametag to get the last name right; I still have to look at the calendar to get the exact day of my brothers’ birthdays, having only the months memorized... and yet these memories were so vivid that it was only after I swallowed the first half of the chocolate chip cookie that I realized I had actually tasted another brand of cookie altogether- the one I had eaten on that afternoon in 1961. I had never truly believed the Zen master’s claim that it was possible to drink tea from an empty cup before; now I know that it’s true.
Who needs drugs? I have chocolate!