I have small binder that I call The Book Of Secrets: Notes from the 1980s, small pieces of paper, six photographs, a Kamikaze headband from my first solo flight, an empty bag of popcorn. It has an embroidered heart, a small packet of Vibhutti, a Masonic emblem, two birthday cards and a Ben Folds ticket. There's a marker from almost all of the important people in my life; the Hams and mechanics, radio engineers and artists, bikers, pilots and the occasional mystic.

Its an iconic list of markers and placeholders, things that remind you of who you are, where you're from, and what your supposed to become in case you forget. Icons of things lost and things found, of things learned and things forgotten.

The only thing missing is the Cookie Jar, which is too big to fit.

I grew up in Georgia, which accounts for a slight flattening of my spoken A's and I's and a penchant for spending time in the woods, but I was born up north, on New York's Long Island which is where the Cookie Jar is from. Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak, songs from Broadway shows, milk, cookies, potassium nitrate and sulfur, the smell of wet paint. My parents were always painting something if my memory serves, which it sometimes doesn't.

But:

All through the 1960s and 70's, though, from JFK through Jimmy Carter, the Cookie Jar sat in the kitchen, in the corner, always full and smiling, or turned around and frowning on the rare occasions when it was empty. It disappeared about the same time that I did.

I wandered off to Georgia Tech for a while and became interested in girls, Porsches and electronics in essentially that order. Cookies were something I didn't really do for a while, although I think I may have developed a Biscotti affectation in the 90's when that was cool for a week or so. My folks moved from Milledgeville to Augusta, and the Cookie Jar went into hiding. Conspicuous in its absence, both from my folk's house and from the Book of Secrets, I wondered what had become of it. Nothing really matters until you notice that the world hasn't changed but you have, and that the world has moved slowly, in subtle but orthogonal ways, making it not only impossible to go home again but impossible to remember how to begin.

My sister Sue's apartment is decorated well enough to grace the pages of Architectural Digest, with the occasional antique, the occasional family heirloom and, to my surprise, one Cookie Jar. I asked for it back. No dice. Finder's keepers.

My Mom understands my feelings on the subject, but understands first asked is first delivered too. So she spent the better part of two years searching eBay, looking on the 'Net, shaking trees and antique dealers to find another Cookie Jar. Which she did, but which still doesn't explain the Christmas Picture:



Sue and I with nearly identical Cookie Jars. After some prodding from Marisa, my girlfriend (whose notes fill the Book of Secrets), Sue agreed that the Cookie Jar meant more to me than it did to her. So I got it as a Christmas present. Twice, since my Mom got me another one, complete with a wooden top my Dad made to fit.

The only thing to do was to give Sue the new Cookie Jar, complete with Dad's custom top (signed and dated, no less) and for me to take mine and put it in the kitchen, in the corner, where it can smile when full and frown when empty. Which it does.

You may not be able to find your way back through the forest to where you began, especially once you've planted a forest of your own, which is why it helps to have Icons from the Old Forest to remind you of who you are, where you're from, and what your supposed to become in case you forget. I have a Cookie Jar, which is smiling.

Copyright @ 2008 Greg Richter / IFR Music