For years I’ve imagined a cozy house on a quiet, tree-lined road. The nondescript location could be New England, the Pacific Northwest, Wisconsin — always somewhere with four distinct seasons. I can walk into town if I need tomatoes for supper, or pick some from the flourishing garden in my backyard. On the weekends we read the paper on the porch, and later linger over glasses of wine on the patio. Aromas of baking cookies, or the night’s roast, waft up wide stairs, as a sweet grey cat rests on a windowsill none-the-wiser. There are extra bedrooms with bright white linens and fresh cut flowers, terra cotta tiles in the kitchen, sun streaming in great windows, and a stone fireplace to crackle on chilly nights. Family and friends drop in for coffee, or stay the weekend, all of us spending hours around a large wooden table.

The reality is, though, that I’m not dreaming for one anymore. I find myself trying to blend two sets of dreams — dreams that are eerily similar, but have different opinions about snowy winters, for example — dreams temporarily on hold because they’re at the mercy of much larger forces.

I’m certainly not complaining and don’t want to seem ungrateful (it’ll make me a stronger person yet); just searching for a place to begin. Think I’ve found it. Homemade cookies baking in the oven.

I learned from my mother at an early age that fresh, from-scratch cookies are what it’s all about. Her recipe (plus a handful of tweaks to make them my own) instantly transports me to a place where I feel cared for and safe. You’re thinking a cookie doesn’t sound like much, but it seems almost magic, somehow calming and generous and optimistic at once.

So then where does that leave us? We have no way of knowing where our home will be, or even when we can make it. Our life could be turned on its head in an instant, and we have to be ready. It all seems so unpredictable at this point. And it’s no secret that spontaneity is not my strong suit. But one thing I can say with certainty — cookies, on a plate atop that wooden table or sent away to who-knows-where, will always be around to bring us memories of home.

Chocolate Chip Cookies [makes about 2 dozen]

Printable recipe

2 c all-purpose flour

1 t salt

3/4 t baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 c granulated sugar

1 c brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 t pure vanilla extract

1 c bittersweet chocolate chips (or Ghirardelli 60% baking chips)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line baking sheets with parchment or Silpat mats.

Whisk or sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

Beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until whipped and smooth. Add the sugars and beat another 2 minutes, until well blended. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each egg is added. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, mixing only until each addition is incorporated.

By hand with a spatula or wooden spoon, mix in chocolate chips only until incorporated throughout the batter. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 days.

Spoon the dough by well-rounded tablespoonful (or use a small cookie scoop) onto prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2″ between each to allow for spreading.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time — rotating at the midway point, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the centers are golden. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to rest 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Adapted from my mother and Dorie Greenspan