As the snowstorm swirled outside on Monday evening, the doorbell rang. Standing outside was a woman holding a plate with four cherry tarts on it.
Things have changed. That woman grew up from the toddler I used to babysit. Her mother, the baker of the cherry tarts, is older now.
But: the cherry tarts are still my favourite thing and they taste the same as when I first tasted them as a child. I guess baking, which my lifelong friend has done for more than six decades, is a skill that lasts.
It is a common complaint that nothing is made the same way any more. Things seem to break easily. Parts that once were metal are now plastic. Appliances that once could be repaired are now garbage as soon as one little thing goes wrong.
Toys are not the same. Even glassware is not the same (it seems to break so easily).
Restaurant food is not the same. Furniture is not the same. Cars are not the same. Building houses is not the same.
In this world where things change every day, those cherry tarts which tasted as good as ever made me think about the need to slow down and notice the good things that have not changed.
The sound of my vinyl records has not changed. Someone compared listening to CDs to looking at the view through a screen door.
I like listening to the music from decades ago, played by musicians, and performed by singers without digital help or autotune.
In fact, if you take a course in audio editing, the basics begin with older, classic recordings, where you can clearly hear effects. The music is more pure, the instructor says.
It is that pureness that we can appreciate something.
New books still smell good. It still feels incomparably good to begin reading a book that one knows one will enjoy. There is the immersion in the story, of course, but there is also the gift to onself of time and concentration on just this one thing. That still feels good.
Opening the door at night and looking outside at the snow in the moonlight: that still feels good. It makes me think back to hours spent skating outside at night when the moon was bright.
Singing with others still feels good. How many of us do this once a week or even once each month? A gathering at a neighbour’s this past weekend was an afternoon of people coming and going, with some always gathered around the piano singing Christmas songs. Everyone seemed to have his or her own favourite; one could feel the memories of Christmases past in the room.
I still like making Christmas gifts. Whether it’s the optimism of the start, or the completion of the last stitch or piece to a gift, that rewarding feeling is still something good. I may have changed over the years, but that feeling is something I can count on.
As I talk with my friends about the holiday season, some of us lament that our grown children want things as they always were when they were little children: the real tree, all of the decorations, the visits, the baking, the funny gifts and the rituals that we are tempted to cast aside because of the shortness of time, fatigue or loss of interest.
But those rituals are what we count on to tell us that what is important is still there and all we have to do is make it happen.
Yes, the real tree still smells the same every year and the ornaments from my lifetime and that of my parents always make me feel good as I hang them on the tree.
I will again bake our holiday favourites and the aroma will fill the house for one frenetic day. Much sampling will be necessary.
Yes, it must be done.
For by then, the cherry tarts will be long gone.