Brownies & Black and White Cookies
Brownies and Black and White Cookies
December 7th 2007
Mama told me the move would be good for me. She said she really believed it. She believed I would blossom and make all of these friends. But what I really want is to be back home, New York City, with Maddie.
I miss our daily adventures to bakery on 40th St when Mama was fast asleep. It was only a block away and when Mama was asleep, she wouldn’t wake up till we get in her face and jump on her bed till she falls off. So we knew every time Mama would fall asleep, it was our time to sneak out. I mean, I wouldn’t really call it sneaking out because it was as easy as walking out the front door. But we enjoyed every moment.
We would save up all our allowances for bakery day. We tried to go at least once a month. $2.50 for the biggest black and white cookie you could ever imagine. Maddie and I always got two. One we would sit there and eat together. I would always get the vanilla and Maddie would always get the chocolate part of the cookie. The other cookie we would take home and hide under my pillows for a rainy Saturday when Mama had us help her clean. Once we were all done we would hide in my room under the covers and eat the cookie. Mama never noticed. But she promised that this change would be good. So I tried to make the best of it, but living in the suburbs of New Jersey makes the city seem like a strange concept. Everything here is so different.
In the city, Nate, Mama and I would walk to school when it wasn’t raining. It was only a couple of blocks away so it was never a big deal. Sometimes, it was my favorite part of the day.
Getting to see what had changed day to day at the same time. Sometimes we would see the old man shining shoes on the corner and other days we saw a woman selling her artwork there. Sometimes we would see girls playing jacks by the park and other days we saw dogs playing tag. Everyday in New York was different and an adventure but here everything is the same. The same old grass, the same trees by the lake, and instead of the streets being filled with people on corners, it was filled with street signs and passing cars.
Daddy hands me my bookbag and my lunch as he whispers in my ear, “hope you're hungry for pancakes.” Breakfast for lunch, what could be better? Oh, that’s right, New York, Maddie, and bakery trips would be way better. But I guess pancakes for lunch is what I’m going to have to settle for.
Mama waits at the bus stop with Nate and I. I hardly would call it a bus stop though, it was just the end of my driveway. As we wait, I hold my cheeks in hopes it’ll get rid of my chills. And I watch as the grass turns white with ice crystals. I really enjoy myself, until I watch a big, yellow bus slowly roll down my street. Mama quickly fixes my jacket straight, kisses me slightly on my forehead, and forcefully turns me around patting me to go onto the bus. The bus is filled with all sorts of kids sharing stories and laughing. Luckily nobody notices me and so I slide into one of the front seats and fixate my eyes to the trees we pass. I figure if I was going to be stuck taking the bus, I might as well try to get something out of it.
When we arrive at the school, teachers bombard us and direct us straight to our classrooms. Nate and I are put in different classrooms, and so now I realize, I am completely alone. The other kids are already placed in neat rows awaiting my arrival. You don’t know what fear is until you walk into a classroom and twenty three heads whip around to you. My teacher, Ms. Mallory squeals, “Kids, welcome our new student. Introduce yourself.”
I follow suite and stand in front of the class, “I’m Natalie. Natalie Honey.” I immediately scan the sea of desks for an open one that is preferably not the open front and center one sitting in front of me. But before I can finish Ms. Mallory exclaims that she saved me a seat right in the front and motions to the empty chair. I quietly sit down and try not to bother with the boys who make loud inappropriate jokes around me. Etched into the desk are the same types of jokes the boys cried laughing about. I run my finger across them and it is as if the joke is being slipped into my mind, because I giggle and don’t even realize I do util Ms. Mallory asks me what is so funny. I turn my head to her, tell her I am sorry, and begin working on my “do-now.”
The question on the board reads, “What is your favorite book and why?” It is almost too easy. I begin writing quickly, and let out my emotions onto the pages. I scribble so fast that my handwriting is almost illegible.
Ms. Mallory asks for volunteers at the end of the time and my hand shoots up like a shot gun’s bullet piercing through air. She calls on me and I proudly state, “My favorite book is The Goblet of Fire from the Harry Potter Series.” My peers laugh and my smile instantly disappears as my cheeks droop.
“You’re way too young to have read those books. Sweetheart, we are not talking about movies.” Ms. Mallory thinks I am being smart so I decide not to fight with her and put my head down. Class goes by slowly and then finally it is lunch. I am excited to eat the pancakes Dad packed.
I stop at the bathroom to wash my hands before I hurry off to lunch, and I almost forget it was my first day. But then can’t find the lunchroom. And then there I am wandering the halls and I can’t find anyone. You’d think in a big school like this someone would have noticed a second grader walking around alone.
I turn the corner and bump into who I think is a teacher. “Aren’t you supposed to be in lunch?” They say. I try to explain to her what has happened, but I stutter so much it is impossible to understand anything I’m saying. She just takes me by the hand and leads me to her office.
I assumed I am getting in trouble, but she just sits me down in her office chair and asks if I want a brownie. I stare at her. I don’t know what else to do but stare at her. She asks again, “Do you want a brownie? They’re double dark chocolate.” I keep staring at her wondering why she’s still staring at me.
Until I remember my first encounter with Maddie. That day, I tripped over my own two feet and she helped me get back onto my feet. But as soon as she tried to talk to me, I was a blank page. Once again, I have forgotten to answer my new friend. Mrs. Brown passes the plate full of brownies to me and I took one, biting into it. It is the most delicious thing I’ve tasted in months. Creamy chocolate with crunchy baked flakes covering it. She grins like she knows exactly what I am thinking. Where am I? Where is the lunchroom? Who are you? Where did these brownies come from and why are they so good? She knows it all.
I look down at the plaque at the front of the desk that reads “Mrs. Brown, guidance counselor.” She asks me multiple questions like if I am new, where I am from, about my brother and my classes. She is very talkative. She reminds me of Maddie. She even has the same brown hair Maddie has. Mrs. Brown then went on to something I am more interested in, books.
“Do you read?” She asks as she stares down at my hands holding Chamber of Secrets. “Yes,” I say, “do you?”
Instead of answering my question, she gestures to the bookcase behind her full of all the books in the world. I jump out of my seat and read the spine of almost every book on the shelf. Catcher in the Rye, all seven of the Harry Potter books, Smile, Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn... “You can borrow one if you would like,” she says.
“Not now,” I say, “too early in our friendship for us to be sharing books.” For the next twenty minutes we eat our lunch and talk about our siblings. She has one older brother and one younger brother, and I can barely handle one.
When the bell rings, Mrs. Brown brings me back to class where Ms. Mallory is waiting on my arrival. The other kids laugh when I walk in until Mrs. Brown hands me another brownie and tells me to have a good day. The class grows silent and watch my brownie and I walk swiftly to my seat.
April 17th 2013
I can’t believe I’m 13 and so busy. I haven’t seen Mrs. Brown in almost a year so I knew I had to come visit her. Right after school I asked mom to drive me there. As I walk through the doors, the big school I once knew looks so small to me. The steps are short and steep and the chairs only reach to my knee. I wander into the front office and knock on Mrs. Brown’s door.
She slowly opens it so she can peek through to see who it was. Our eyes meet and she flings open the door embracing me as quick as possible. She squeals, “How have you been?”
“I’m doing great. I missed you.”
“You know I was just thinking about you. Take a brownie.” Mrs. Brown and I talk about our current favorite books, and I tell her about my new friend, Iris. How we are the same and different. Iris has shown me that there is more to life than books and grades. On the night I went to Iris’s house, her and I watched scary movies and talked about what New York was like. Iris has never been there and I promised her we would go one day and meet Maddie. Mrs. Brown is thrilled to see I am finally making friends. “You know I worried about you, about you making friends your own age” she says. “But I knew when the time came, you would grow up before my eyes.”
February 6th 2014
“If you love something let it go,” Mama whispers in my ear. People tell you to let go of the things you love but by letting go of these things, doesn’t that make you love yourself a little less? I had to let Mrs. Brown go a few days ago. Today I am visiting her funeral and as I approach the casket holding on to Mama, my legs begin to buckle and shake. I slowly raise my head above her and see her pale white face sit there lifelessly. Her hair flows down past her shoulders and is neatly placed into position. I can’t help but cry because not only do I have to let go of something I love, but it seems as if all the love that was engraved in her had been ripped out faster than she could blink.
She passed of a heart attack. She always joked she would have one one day due to all the brownies she ate, but Mama tells me sometimes the things you mean to be a joke, come true.
Tears drip down my cheeks and fall onto her hand which is holding a bright white rose.
After the light chatter in the room dissolves, people take their seats as others come up to talk about how Mrs. Brown has influenced them. Everyone is crying silently. So silent, you could hear a pin drop. Each story fills in the gaps of her life as the small group of people gather together laughing over the joyful stories and crying over the sad ones. After almost everyone has spoken I gather enough courage and stability to take my turn at the podium. I calmly walk as eyes follow the back of my head. I reach into my pocket to pull out what I had written just the day before, grip it tightly then gently let go.
I clear my throat and open my mouth. When no words come out, another tear streams down my face and I clear my throat once again. This time when I begin to talk, the words fly out of my mouth. I begin, “When I was seven years old, I moved here from New York. On my first day of school I quickly realized I was lost, figuratively and literally. Mrs. Brown welcomed me into her office with open arms, and brownies. Always brownies.” The room chuckles. “She showed me what it meant to be an myself. She allowed me to open myself up to her, like I was never able to do to anyone else. Suddenly I was only half lost. I still didn’t know where the lunchroom was.” The room full of distraught faces smile with pain filling each teardrop. “And so I will never forget what this new life looks like because of her. Almost six years later, and I have a friend named Iris who is the result of Mrs. Brown telling me to go out there and do what I never knew how to do. Be myself.”