On A Cookie in the Queen’s Kitchen

Hubby and I just completed a wonderful tour of London and Paris. We stayed in beautiful hotels, toured castles and palaces, and came face to face with works of art and architecture that reflect no less than the pinnacle of human creativity and genius. So, after ten days spent touring the height of culture, what’s the moment that my mind keeps returning to? But of course, eating a cookie on a wooden bench.

At Hampton Court Palace — most famously one of the royal residences of Henry VIII — Queen Elizabeth I’s kitchen has been converted into a public tea room. I’m not sure how she would take such commoners, but after hours of standing in portrait galleries and walking through the palace, the simple wooden benches felt blissfully soft to this member of the hoi polloi.  The red-eye flight over the pond, followed by several days of touring had taken their toll. London had enchanted me, but, at this point, my aching back and feet yanked my head out of the clouds and cried out for a pause that refreshes.

I grabbed a cookie and a hot chocolate from the kitchen, and sat across the table from Hubby to enjoy a few moments of peace, quiet, and rest. Then, a funny thing happened. I nibbled on my cookie, and my shoulders began to drop. My back and feet felt better. My peripheral vision came back. Untethered from the responsibilities of work and normal life, my mind came to rest on the very real fact that I was sitting in a 500 year old palace, across a table from the love of my life, eating a tasty cookie. I was on a quite grand adventure, inconceivable and inaccessible to most through history, but there I was, surely with the remnant of a chocolate chip smudged on the corner of my mouth. An unremarkable moment where life just feels unassailably profound and good and uncomplicated.

It’s one of those moments where all the tumblers of your soul fall into place, a bookmark moment in your life, seemingly banal but extraordinary in the millions of choices and chances that brought you to that point. I smiled at Hubby and watched him eat his treat, knowing he had no idea I had just dropped a psychic anchor in that moment.

Those moments of clarity never happen when you think they might. It’s not during the graduation ceremony or the religious service; rather, it’s when you pick up the baked beans from the grocery shelf or fold the underwear from the laundry. You’re yanked out of the mundanity of the moment and locked into a deeper conversation with yourself, a personal inventory of your trials and triumphs, scars and scores. Suddenly, everything makes sense, the prose becomes a little more poetic, and we momentarily grab the live wire of life. You can’t plan it, you can’t force it, you just enjoy it when you’re lucky enough to experience it.

Over ten days, I encountered beauty in almost every conceivable form. I encountered great wealth, great power, and great achievement. I marveled at two world-class cities, and humbled myself before works of indescribable exquisiteness. But none matched that cookie on that wooden bench across from my husband. That’s the moment I’ll remember.

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