Meditations on Chrusciki

The holidays, and the New Year in particular, are the perfect time for us to reflect on what we’ve accomplished or not accomplished over the past year. For me, “accomplished” does not mean what I’ve achieved in my work life or the number of books I’ve read or the household projects I’ve finished. It doesn’t mean becoming more organized or getting in shape (although I wish both of these would magically happen).

Every year, I make the same sort of resolutions: see, and stay-in-touch with, family and friends, be more creative, pay more attention to what is important. Every year, I mostly fail at accomplishing my resolutions due to exhaustion, inertia and the things that life throws at all of us: work, chores, doctor’s appointments, tax returns, illness, the time-suck that is the Internet.

A busy work life and the need to cram chores (laundry, cleaning, appointments, shopping) into off-work time means that I might have clean underwear but I won’t visit with family.

A strong internal critic often halts my creativity, stopping me from writing because it’s a long process full of constant real-time editing and the feeling that others have already said what I am trying to say — and have done it so much better (also: see “a sense of responsibility” below).

A sense of responsibility and the belief that I should always be doing something “worthwhile” as opposed to enjoying myself are other reasons why I often don’t pay attention to what I know is really important in my life (and believe me, it’s not having freshly-vacuumed floors).

Which brings me to the chrusciki.

A plate of chrusciki.

On Christmas Eve, my sister brought a tray of cookies to our family celebration. The next morning, my daughter held up one of those cookies, a chrusciki, and asked, “What’s this?”

I was incredulous. “What do you mean ‘what’s this?’ It’s a chrusciki.”

“What’s a chrusciki?”

And I thought, how can it be possible that I, a person of Polish heritage, raised on chrusciki, pierogies*, golumpki and cauliflower topped with brown-buttered breadcrumbs, had not introduced my children to chrusciki?

In that moment, I realized that, for me, passing on to my children some of what I had experienced as a child was important, and I had failed at that task.

Really chruscikis are more than cookies to me, they are part of a story I want to tell about my life and the things that matter most to me, like chrusciki and how my mother would cook them, and how being Polish and Irish and raised as a Catholic in northeast Philly defined me when I was growing up and shaped the person I am today.

Last night my mother, step-father, husband and I were discussing resolutions. I had a singular one: to learn to become a better photographer. But now, after meditating on the Chrusciki Incident, I resolve again to:

  • spend more time with family and friends;
  • strengthen and foster my creativity (write AND┬átake photographs);
  • pay attention to what is important to me — taking a long walk in Valley Forge Park with my husband, visiting a museum, spending all day reading the Sunday N.Y. Times, learning to make chrusciki.

Wish me luck.

*It’s only thanks to Mrs. T’s that my children know how wonderful pierogies are.