Every year, right around Thanksgiving,
or, likely before, my sisters would begin planning the cookie
exchange. This annual event filled me with terror: While my mother
and sisters birthed perfect creations, each cookie so lovely, eating
it was almost a crime, my yearly contributions always fell a bit
short of the mark. Rather than being festive, my cookies looked a bit
wilted and sad: Either the tips of the stars I'd painstakingly cut
out would break off or, worse, they'd curl, giving the stars the look
of a hippy, happy
starfish, the effects of which no amount of stoic, starry
frosting could counteract. Or I'd roll out my cookies wrong: So thick
that a saw would be required to break them or so thin they'd be
nearly translucent and burned at the edges.
It's not just cookies that elude me. I
am, in fact, rather inept at most things domestic. It is easy to
identify me in old family photographs: I'm the one with the messy
hair or the gaping zipper or the shirt tugged on inside-out. My
infrequent attempts at sewing usually bring me to utter words not
often heard in our house. And I've knitted the first two rows of a
sock thirteen hundred times, only to drop a stitch, or drop the
needles, or to lose count while chatting and have to pull out the
stitches and begin again.
So it was with a bit of relief when we
moved to Canada and I was tacitly relieved of my cookie-exchange
duties. I was busy enough, I was assured, what with the move and
settling young children into new schools. Sure, my sisters would
still send me peanut butter blossoms and graham cracker toffee bars,
butterballs and spritz and chocolate-covered pretzels. I would still
receive Mom's toffee bars and date cakes.
Thus freed, I was happy to make messy
cookies with my children: Cutouts, thick and thin, heavily decorated,
while we listened, a bit buzzed on sugar, to carols on the radio.
Silver balls decorated Christmas trees. Coconut jimmies were
slathered on frosted bells. And those Red Hots? Not only were they
used for Frosty's eyes, nose, and smiling mouth, they served to side
entire cutout houses. No one saw our cookies, excepting Santa, of
course. So it didn't matter that they were misshapen. That they
weighed eight pounds each. That one bite would give you your caloric
requirement for twenty-four hours. And so I continued to coast in
this manner, accepting cookies from my family. Giving nothing in
return. Sweet relief.
And I suspect my sisters were relieved
they didn't have to set out my dejected little offerings on the
cookie trays they took to holiday gatherings, my squarish pinwheel
cookies...my crumbling shortbread...my starfish.
After a ten-year absence, after ten
years of not baking cookies for my family, we moved back to Ohio. And
just before my birthday in late November, my sister emailed me. "I'm
bringing my cookies over on your birthday."
This posed an interesting moral
dilemma: Now that we lived back in Ohio, was I obliged to participate
in the annual cookie exchange or could I continue to coast?
I decided to take the high road: I
scoured the internet, in search of the prettiest, tastiest Christmas
cookies, the likes of which had never before emerged from my kitchen.
My first endeavor was a frosted pumpkin-chocolate chip affair that,
with the icing drizzled down the top, was said to resemble a snowy
mountaintop. Mine resembled flattish golf balls and were nearly as
What to do with six dozen frosted golf
balls? I wrapped them up and presented them to my mom and sisters
hoping that they'd be kind and pretend not to notice. It was my
birthday, after all.
My second cookie, frosted snowflake
cutouts, were just as successful: pale pathetic things, in fact, the
only cookie in my freezer that we haven't broken into. Most of the
other cookies are already gone: The butterballs and the peanut butter
blossoms. The date cakes and the toffee bars and the
My son brought a friend home from
school the other day. He rummaged in the freezer, found a bag of my
sister's graham cracker toffee bars. I watched as the friend ate
one...two...three...four cookies in quick succession. "Your
mom's cookies are the best," the friend exclaimed spitting out
crumbs onto my unswept kitchen floor.
My son didn't correct this friend,
didn't inform him that it was his aunt, in fact, who'd made the
No. My son did not correct this friend.
He's a good boy.
Kelly Garriott Waite on Google+
This has been linked up with Yeah, Write.
Labels: baking, cookies, Creative non-fiction, Sisters