This was a Quick Fix I prepped for Cracked the week after Newtown happened. I never expected them to run it, but I wanted to write it. So here it is.
We joke a lot about death here at Cracked–and a particular lot in this column–because I think, overall, it’s better to laugh than scream. And so I have joked about cancer, cannibalism, diabetes, smallpox, alcoholism, genital mutilation, genocide, police brutality, Wayne Newton, racism, and other interesting developments that, in day to day life, I strive to avoid. And they’re all funny, in that none of them should exist but they do anyway because life is hard and people can be monstrous. I have joked about them proudly, and I will joke about them next week.
Death is terrifying, of course, but what can you do? It’s going to swing its scythe at you sooner or later, so you might as well mock it while you can. What’s the worst that happens–you die more?
My death is funny because it belongs to me. It’s mine to sneer at as I drink my way to it. Death as an event is funny because it’s going to happen to all of us no matter what we do. It’s the last joke the universe ever tells us–admittedly, kind of a corny one where you know the punchline already, but it’s all in the delivery.
…but I am not a good enough comedian to find the despairing humor in a newsroom full of TVs as the update comes in that someone has murdered 20 children, six teachers, and his own mother. When that happened, I was sitting at my desk, enjoying a productive end to the week, and looking forward to some Christmas cookies my coworker Kristen made for the office.
Then the world lurched.
(Kristen’s a really nice person, by the way–maybe the nicest I’ve ever met, and I think we should all be saying more stuff about the good people in our lives so they know how we think of them.)
Eventually, in the throbbing, gut-churning haze of the day, I had to book a conference room away from the TVs just to be able to finish a couple of basic projects. The only thing I could manage to eat were those four cookies Kristen shared, and they were maybe the one moment of comfort.
There is no joke about Friday’s murders that will allay their pain and horror–not even the ones that resign us to our own helpless humanity. I can’t frame it for you. There’s no punchline that can contextualize the unimaginable made real. There are no helping words. This is all I can offer you and hope it’s some comfort:
Ma McGinley’s Recipe for Kindergarten Kookies
I first had these cookies I was five years old, and in kindergarten myself. I remember never tasting anything like them before. The entire world was new back then, and open, spreading out to the future, not to be stolen by some lunatic with a–
Alright. No. Not those thoughts.
Mom’s recipe dates these cookies back to 1977, which would have been when my brother first entered kindergarten, so they’re tried and true crowd-pleasers. Funny thing, when I was born on Labor Day (rimshot), Mom had to miss my sister’s first day of kindergarten, and my sister never forgave me. Although obviously she did eventually, because she was only six, and…
Ah, Jesus God weeping Christ. Only six years old.
…the recipe. In a mixing bowl:
- 3 cups oats
- 1/2 cup cocoa or 1 square unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup shredded coconut
If you don’t like coconut, you can substitute with soft, shredded wheat or just make these for a friend who does, because life is too short–too awfully short and we must be kind. If we aren’t kind to each other–if we don’t surprise one another, not with bullets for strangers, but gifts neither earned nor expected–then we are each one of us alone. But if we are kind–!
If we are kind, we’ll show each other that rage and even madness don’t lead to inevitable places, that we can take care of one another, especially those who can’t take care of themselves. And maybe someone will remember that once they were small and weak and–why can’t I see what I’m typing? It’s all a blur–somebody taught them love.
Add to the bowl for your friend:
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup pecans or dates
I like to mix both pecans and dates in there because it makes for a nicer flavor, though I don’t always because my nephew Jack is allergic to nuts, and you’d have to be nuts to want to hurt someone Jack’s age. What is this world we live in? I don’t understand, I don’t, I don’t, someone please explain it to me before I go nuts.
Mix all the ingredients by hand in the bowl. Stir them slowly and precisely so you can get lost in the motions and maybe your brain will go quiet for a few blessed minutes because it is screaming and screaming that this is so far outside even the realm of bad things happening to good people.
Let a kid lick the spoon. Tell them they’re a good kid.
When you’re done, boil on full heat for 1 minute only:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- Optional: 1 square of chocolate if you’re not using cocoa powder above
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, including these tears that won’t stop rolling down your face because there is no cookie big enough to comfort someone when they’ve heard that this has happened, let alone lived through it. It’s okay. Nobody has to know you were crying. Big smiles. Biiiiig smiles, and remember that many people have loved you for who you are, nothing more required, even people you only knew briefly. It was enough for them that you existed. There are good people in this world. There are. There are. There are.
Some of them gave their lives to protect kids on Friday.
Okay, everything’s mixed. Get a couple of soup spoons and lay them on a sheet covered with wax paper. Leave them to set on the counter. They will dry into a deliciously, candylike, crumbly treat, and maybe, I don’t even know, maybe the tears will dry someday too.
Brendan McGinley has no idea.