Exchanged


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."

Huh.

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 flavorful.

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 chocolate-covered pretzels.

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 cookies.

No. My son did not correct this friend.

He's a good boy.



This has been linked up with Yeah, Write.

Labels: , , ,

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Exchanged

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Exchanged


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."

Huh.

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 flavorful.

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 chocolate-covered pretzels.

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 cookies.

No. My son did not correct this friend.

He's a good boy.



This has been linked up with Yeah, Write.

Labels: , , ,

10 Comments:

At December 19, 2013 at 9:01 PM , Anonymous steph said...

Great story, Kelly. I remember baking cookies with my mother and sisters at Christmas. Like yours, 2 of my sisters (out of 5) went on to become cookie artisans. Not my forte. But I'm pretty good at soup. But, you win, nonetheless, raising a son who loves you so much he's got your back. That's better than fashioning the perfect peanut butter blossom. Or a hippy, happy starfish! Merry Christmas!

 
At December 20, 2013 at 7:10 AM , Blogger Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Thanks for reading, Steph! As I write, I have a kettle of beans on the stove, which will soon become a minestrone for tonight's dinner. Good for a rainy last day of fall. Perhaps I'll break out those starfish, too.

 
At December 21, 2013 at 8:39 AM , Blogger Kirra Antrobus said...

Love this. I'm glad I came by from the linkup. Merry Christmas!

 
At December 21, 2013 at 4:10 PM , Blogger j umbaugh said...

Whole piece was interesting, but the last line "He's a good boy was icing on the cake.

 
At December 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM , Blogger Yvonne said...

Aww, this post reminded me of our Cookie Exchange tradition with my friends. We stopped doing it about 5 years ago but we had some really nice times doing that. Thanks for sharing!

 
At December 23, 2013 at 7:00 AM , Blogger Samantha S. said...

Really great story! And thank you for linking up to the Christian Teen Bloggers Christmas Link-up!

 
At December 24, 2013 at 6:49 AM , Blogger Mamarific said...

Mmmm, toffee bars and butter balls. I believe I'll have a cookie for breakfast...

 
At December 25, 2013 at 5:49 PM , Blogger Treading Water in the Kiddie Pool said...

You just made me really hungry!

 
At December 26, 2013 at 11:10 AM , Blogger Michelle Longo said...

As long as they taste good, I've never cared what a cookie looked like!

 
At December 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM , Anonymous ben@dadofthedecade said...

Haha! I am so glad that I am not alone in failing at Christmas Cookies. Every other cookie? It comes out great. Xmas, though? FAIL!

 

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