Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kolachkis for Grandma Ruth

My father’s mother died of cervical cancer when he was five years old. Her name was Ruth Emma Ruston and she was only forty-two. The closer I get to that age myself, the more I find myself thinking about my her. At this age, what would it be like to know that I might have to leave behind my husband and three sons?
My dad has this picture of her at a family party in this fabulous red dress, a bit out of place for a Sunday afternoon get-together. She is looking at the camera with a big smile on her face. My dad said that she went into the hospital the week after that party, and she knew she wasn’t coming out. That dress was her favorite dress.
This year, both at the holidays and in my work, I’ve been focusing on reaching out to her, trying to build traditions with her that we were never able to have. In that spirit, I made kolachki cookies, for the first time, with Grandma Ruth in my butter-yellow kitchen.
As I’ve been doing our genealogy and family history, I find that my family resemblance is to her line of the family, the Ruston line with its Polish heritage. It wasn’t a leap to try to connect with her over a Polish cookie. I am not historically talented in the kitchen, something I’ve been working on for the last few years. So my offering to her spirit was the attempt to make something that was a bit more complicated.
The dough was prepared the night before and chilled in the fridge. The black walnut filling was mixed and beat into submission. And then I pressed the dough out between two layers of wax paper until it was paper thin, almost translucent. As I rolled the dough out, firmly and repeatedly, I thought about my Grandma Ruth. I thought about the line of Rustons, who come through Wickers and Whitchers, Whitchers and DeLoziers, Loziers and Zabriskis, Zabriskis and Terhunes, Zabriskis and Van Der Lindes, back into Poland. And I rolled the dough thin and smooth.
It felt as if dozens of women stood in the kitchen with me, cutting out three inch squares, dolloping golden filling on them, and folding opposite corners in over each other. The warmth from the oven made fingers and dough supple and into the oven they went to cook. Besides the fact that I need to work on my folding skills, they are delicate and flaky, and delicious.

I wish my father could have better known his mother. I wish that I could have known her. I’m not sure if she ever made kolachkis or if her family ever had, but in my heart I made them to honor my unknown Grandmother and all who came before her, so that I could be here, with hands in warm dough, and heart full of love, peace and wonder. 

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