Tess had just finished feeding her cat when a familiar face appeared in the window of the old wooden door that had kept her safe inside her home and the world safely outside for so many decades. The face was framed by the molding on the door her father installed when she was a child, and backlit by the sun, making it hard for Tess to discern who was outside looking in. Dark eyes, thick, unkempt eyebrows, long, messy hair pulled away from a woman’s face was all she could make out.
The face watched her. Tess hated being observed by anyone, especially by someone she couldn’t place in time, though certainly, this familiar face had existed in one moment or more, in one place or many, together they had gazed at each other briefly or for many hours. Tess now forgot. She hated the forgetting that came with age, and even more, she detested unannounced visits.
A worried face, much like her own, and yet, she couldn’t place it. Was she hallucinating…again? And if she was? Good, Tess thought. It was time for this miserable process of dying to get on with it. The waiting had become unbearable, leaving her restless and angry. Angry with cancer that took its time eating away at her; angry with her dead husband, envious of fast-moving cancer that took him away many years ago leaving her to deal with this alone, and angry with her remaining family for their visits and calls. Their concern felt half-hearted, as she knew, as the almost dead do, the living just want you to go. They are waiting, anticipating the tsunami of grief. And like Tess, they wanted to get on with it.
If Tess were a dog, she would have walked to the woods that surrounded the back of her property, curled up on a pile of dead brown leaves under the black maple tree and stare at the bluebird sky. Alone, free, ready. Why is it so damn hard to die? Tess thought as she reached for the doorknob. She figured she would let the face in, see what she wanted.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Mom! I’m freezing out here.”
“Come in, come in. Watch out for the cat.” Tess said.
“It’s time to put that cat down, Mom.”
“Like, hell. When I’m gone, do what you want with it.”
Her daughter was back again, this time with muffins. Carrot muffins. Muffins Tess would thank her for, but not eat because eating did not make much sense anymore. She never cared much for carrot muffins anyway. Tess would keep this to herself. The last thing she wanted was for daughter to feel useless. And she certainly didn’t want another visit from the hospice nurse, poking at her or asking her stupid questions. How are you feeling today? Are you in pain? On a scale of 1 to 10, one being no pain and ten being the worst pain where do say you are? Assholes. All of them. I’m dying and I just want to forget it.
Tess moved slowly to her favorite chair and sat down, grateful to be off her feet. The walk to the door felt like a mile. Her daughter sat in the chair next to her and grimaced when the matted cat jumped into Tess’ lap.
“I know he is pretty sad lookin’,” Tess said.
Her daughter smiled, let out a small laugh. Tess had forgotten her face at the door, misplaced it in time, let it dissipate from her memory in just a matter of days. It must be part of the dying process, Tess thought. How could she leave while still holding on so tightly? Damn near impossible. Tess loved her daughter’s smile, knowing laugh, dark eyes. She was a good girl, always had been. She would miss her. Tess couldn’t say that about many people.
Tess’ eyes felt heavy. “I’m so tired.”
“Rest, Mom. I’ll stay for a while. I need to pick up the kids in a couple of hours.”
As Tess dozed off, she watched her daughter holding on tightly to her little computer, tapping away a message to the outside world, a message to the rest of Tess’ family. Soon Tess would be gone and maybe before she left, Tess would take a bite of the muffin.
Carrot Cake Muffins with Maple Icing
recipe adapted from My Recipes
makes 12 muffins
Ingredients for muffins:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple extract
3 medium rainbow carrots or regular carrots, finely grated, about 2 cups
1/2 cup of golden raisins optional
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Lightly coat muffin pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, egg whites, extracts and grated carrots. Add wet mixture to dry mixture. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix!
Spoon batter into baking cups, about 3/4 of the way full. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Be sure to check the muffins at 22 minutes. You do not want to over bake them.
Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Spoon icing over muffins and serve. Muffins taste best slightly warm the day they are made but will taste great for breakfast the next day as well. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container. Enjoy!
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 or 2 tablespoons of milk, any kind
Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup. Add 1 tablespoon of milk and whisk. Add more milk to reach desired consistency. Spoon icing over muffins. Enjoy!
5 Spring Muffin Links
Looking for a gluten-free muffin option for your next spring brunch? Head to Dolly + Oatmeal for Lindsay’s strawberry, oat, cacao muffin recipe.
Chocolate muffins are always a good idea. Head to A Brown Table for a sea salt chocolate muffin recipe that is sure to make you smile.
Do you remember the department store, Jordan Marsh? Me too. I spent many weekends tagging along with my grandmother to Jordan Marsh, but I never did try their blueberry muffins. NYT Cooking has the recipe for you. Check it out!