The fresh smell of cookies rose in the air of my grandmother’s country kitchen as they baked in the oven on a snowy winter’s day. Through the window, the large spruce tree swayed in the brisk breeze as snow steadily fell, clinging lightly to its branches. Upon the table were festive cookie tins spread about lined with wax paper. To the side, the lids each had our neighbors’ names written on a Christmas gift label. Holiday baking was afoot as five different recipes were being stirred and created all at once. I busily stirred a bowl of Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies when a rap was heard at the door. My grandmother paused her work and made her way over to the porch door that connected to the kitchen. A man in a neat blue suit handed her a package and tipped his hat and then slushed his way back to his vehicle. I watched from the window as he left and then quickly went back to my work while my grandmother headed back into the kitchen.
For a moment, she said nothing as my brother, sister and I continued to work stirring cookies and filling the tins. After a while, my grandmother opened the package and sat down upon seeing the contents within the box. A small tear rolled down her cheek, but she quickly wiped it away as she put her apron on and went back to work. “Grandma, what’s wrong?” I asked as she tended to keep to herself. My grandmother attempted to keep cooking and then turned to the three of us and placed her hand towel on the neighboring kitchen chair. She then looked back at the package and began to tell a story.
Years ago, in the valley of Donbridge, the McMillen family lived in the center of town. They were the only jewelers in Donbridge, and their reputation was renowned throughout all of New England and beyond not only for their craftsmanship, but for their artistry. Dukes, Duchesses and well-to-do landowners sought out the McMillen family to have gifts crafted for every kind of special occasion.
One day, in the early summer days of June, a courier arrived at the McMillen’s shop. The letter carried a royal seal and took the interest of the oldest living McMillen, Frederick, who was ready to retire from the family business after having chosen his eldest son, Michael, to run the family business. It came to pass that the Queen of England had called upon Fredrick to fashion her a necklace of silver and pearls for her birthday. Excited at the chance to finish his career on the highest of endings, he set to the task of making her present.
He worked nearly three months on the piece and was set to travel to England to deliver the jewelry himself. But, before departing on this journey, the youngest son, Thomas, gave him a special present made from a rare silver that was said to have come from a lost Lenape treasure.Legend tells that the riches of the Lenape were cursed; however, the prosperity the McMillen family had made from the fine silver they discovered made them well beyond famous, so cursed never really crossed their minds. The gift for his father was a compass which not only guided direction, but it was said that it could also predict the weather by means of dewpoint and pressure. Amazed at its craftmanship, Frederick proudly carried the compass and set off for England.
Fredrick traveled for months across the Atlantic and soon found himself at the palace of the Queen. The jewelry was well received and soon news had made it back to the New World of the exquisite gift and the famed last creation of Fredrick McMillen. Seeing his mission was over, Fredrick decided to go home. While on his journey back across the Atlantic, the crew fell ill with smallpox. Now, Fredrick, having had the smallpox when he was little, had been nursed back to health and had a strong immunity to it, so he never fell ill. Soon the pox ran rampant on the ship and everyone perished except Fredrick. Respecting his ill-fated crew with proper burials at sea, he took command of the ship, and began to use the compass as his guide.
While Fredrick traveled and bad weather would approach, the compass would warn him, keeping him safe during his journey. But as he would avoid the weather events by means of the compass’s direction, he would find that the places he arrived were not near to his home. It would seem that the only navigation Fredrick knew was the use of the compass and since it was driven by weather, a direct route home seemed near impossible or so he thought.
Months passed. Fredrick followed the compass and continued to avoid the weather. Months became years as he tried to find his way back to the New World and to Donbridge, but each time the compass would change its direction, avoiding storm after storm. Fredrick traveled to Asia, then Africa, then India, and then Antarctica. He had journeyed the entire world before finally, one day, he found the large mouth of a river and began to sail up the shoreline. After a two-day journey in, he realized where he was and docked his boat along the river’s shores. Climbing out on to the rocky beach, he made his way inland and when he arrived, he found the valley where Donbridge had once stood, but it was now covered completely in water as a dam had been formed by the neighboring city. He was stunned when he saw this as he was not sure what to make of it. Where had his family gone? How long had he been gone? As he stared over the massive lake that was once Donbridge, he heard an odd noise coming from a horse path. As he turned, he saw a horseless carriage coming at him. Fredrick had never seen such a creation. The vehicle stopped in front of Fredrick and an old man slowly made his way from the car. He was nearly 100 years old and walked at a snail’s pace toward Fredrick. “Hello father,” the old man said. Fredrick was stunned and for a moment he looked deep into the old man’s eyes and there, beyond the wrinkles, Fredrick saw his youngest, Thomas, who had fashioned him the compass. Fredrick was stunned and wept as he walked to the old man and in a familiar yet unfamiliar fashion Fredrick hugged him, for the compass had led him not back to his home but to his future.
When my grandmother finished her tale, she continued to place drop cookies on the cookie tray for baking. “What ever happened to the compass?” I asked as I stood. My grandmother just smiled as she went about her business. But determined as I was, I figured I would at least check out what was in the box.
Walking over to the radiator, I lifted the box from the top and opened it up. There inside was a postcard with a message:
If you get this, Jules, tell my family I am trying to get home. I am in Brazil. Yours, Fredrick McMillen. Shocked at the note, I went to place it back into the box and there hanging on a key chain rack was a gold chain, one I had never seen before. When I opened the circular pendant, I found a compass inside with what appeared to be a barometer of sorts. No sooner did I go to move it, than my grandmother placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “Some things are not meant to run off with as you never know where or when they will take you.” I quickly put the compass back and went about my baking.
By Author RD Vincent
Grandma’s Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
1 Tsp of Sea Salt
1 Tsp of Cinnamon
2 Tsp of Baking Soda
2 Cups of dry oatmeal
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Cup of chopped Almonds
1 Cup of Shortening
1 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Cup of White Sugar
2 ½ Cups of flour
1 Cup of Dried Cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
3. Stir well.
4. Grease a cookie sheet or use parchment paper.
5. Spoon out the cookie dough onto the greased cookie sheet or parchment paper in a drop cookie fashion.
6. Place cookies in the preheated oven.
7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Remove and let cool. Then enjoy.
9. Yield: 35 cookies