The day was short, as it is in winter, and the familiar yellow of a setting sun washed over our dining room table, when they caught my eye. Two pieces of family history, stacked just so, in that space where the light hits the table.
Joy, the old towel, and Joy, the book of cooking.
I stood for a moment, unable to move, the realization catching me. These two tangible pieces of "joy" which once belonged in the kitchens of two of the greatest women I've known, beckoned to me now.
The towel, with the words J O Y etched at the edge, is worn with washing and age. It's laid over many an oven handle. It's been thrown over shoulders and tucked into apron pockets, it's wiped countless spills, dried numberless small hands, and in a time which feels so long past, it resided in my mother's house.
The towel is now mine.
It comes out each Christmas, and though the scent of her is gone, I inhale it, deep into my lungs. I rest it to my cheek, sometimes to wipe my tears, other times to choose it as a hug, from her.
The towel brings me joy.
The book, Joy of Cooking, is yellowed in all the best ways. It's pages are loose and dog-eared, the pencil marks, checks, and x's that fill it's girth tell tales I only wish I could read. The book smells of ancient times, of the kitchens in which it lived, of the hands that held it. It smells of my childhood and the childhoods before mine, and in a time which feels so long past, it resided in my great-grandmother's house.
The cookbook is now mine.
It comes out on special occasions, when I decide I've had enough of Pinteresting recipes and I need so much to feel close to her, to them, the women in my family. I open the cover, bring it to my nose, and breathe it in, filling my lungs with the whole lot of it.
The cookbook brings me joy.
Oh, joy, unspeakable joy. This word that we hear so much about during the holiday season, joy, and yet, do we feel it? Do we, practice it?
The two "joys", stacked atop one another, the lineage of womanhood, of kitchens come and gone, of mothers mothering and daughters daughtering - it was almost too much for me. My heart both ached for them, the original owners, and swelled with gratitude.
Yet another gift this season, not wrapped in ribbons or bows, not purchased or even hand-made. Gifts from the heart. Gifts from life. Gifts that serve as reminders, that joy really is, everywhere.