Grandma's Cookies by Renee Marksi

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I rubbed my temples slowly, trying to concentrate on the screen in front of me. I had to finish this paper by midnight so I could submit it for my ethics class. With 1000 words left to write, I was not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My daughter's laughter drifted in through my closed office door. Thank goodness my mother was able to come over three days a week to help with her so I could get my schoolwork done. That woman was my saving grace.

I squinted at the screen, straining to think of what I wanted to write next. The laughter came again, along with my daughter crying out, "Grandma, that's not how cookies are made!" Leave it to my mother to get a four-year-old to tell her that she was doing something wrong. My mother had a way with kids that I’d never had; she could always make my daughter laugh when I felt like I couldn't. I ran my fingers through my greasy brown hair. A shower was in order; maybe that would help me think.

As the steaming water poured over my bent head, I tried to think of how I wanted to word my next paragraph. It just didn't seem to be coming together. Stepping out of the shower, I grabbed my towel, relishing its softness as I wrapped it around my slim waist. Wrapping another towel around my hair, I grabbed fresh clothes and decided that maybe coffee would get me through to the end.

As I entered the kitchen, I was blasted by the scent of fresh-baked cookies and coffee. My mother looked up from her spot at the counter, where she had rolled out sheets of cookie dough. Flour spotted her Christmas tree apron, her arms, and her cheeks. Some was even in her graying hair. Her brown eyes twinkled with happiness as she smiled at me. "I figured you would need a coffee break. I made a fresh pot." I reached out and squeezed her hand, too grateful to express the feeling in words.

From the table my daughter looked up with a grin. "Mommy, I'm decorating Christmas cookies." She held up a spoonful of red frosting, some of it dripping onto the floor. Frosting covered her hands, her rosy cheeks, her dirty blonde hair, and the front of her shirt.

"Are you sure you're decorating and not just eating all the frosting?"

She giggled, swinging the spoon around in the air. "Grandma says that's half the fun. You decorate a little, you eat a little. I tried to tell her that cookies aren't made that way but she says all her cookies are made like that." My daughter’s hazel eyes looked at me in earnest, begging me to confirm that Grandma was right.

I grinned, leaned over, and licked some frosting off the spoon. "Grandma is very right, sweetheart. You have to have fun while decorating."

"And I use two spoons! One is my decorating spoon, one is my licking spoon. Grandma says not everyone wants my germs."

I just shook my head at this, wondering at my mother’s ability to convince my strong-willed three year old to use two spoons to decorate. I was lucky if she used one at dinner. I reached for the coffee pot and then pulled a mug from the cupboard above it. As I poured the dark brew, my mother began to hum a Christmas song, about Christmas cookies of all things.

Taking a sip of coffee, I sighed. "Really, Mom? Country music?"

She winked. "You know it, Sugar. How's that paper coming?"

"My brain is leaking out of my ears. I have no idea how I'm going to finish it on time."

Her forehead crinkled as she looked at me sternly. "Now you listen here, young lady. Sandy and I are working extra hard out here, so you finish up in there and join us. Don't think you're getting out of decorating just because you have a paper to do. Better get it done quick so you can help." She winked before bending back over the sheets of dough in front of her. I kissed her flour-covered cheek as I went by, enjoying the smell of cookies that followed me back to the office.

It took only another two hours to put the finishing touches on the paper. As I shut down the computer and headed back out to the kitchen, the silence surprised me. As I rounded the corner, my mother greeted me with a smile, holding one finger over her lips. She looked toward the table. Curled up in the chair on which she had stood earlier, little Sandy snored softly, her cheek resting on her frosting spoon.

"How long has she been like that?"

My mom chuckled, her whole body shaking. "About half an hour. She got really quiet and then just crushed. Too much sugar."

I shook my head, then picked her up from the chair and carried her into her room, where I laid her gently on her bed. Sandy reached for her little brown teddy bear, pulling him close and smearing red frosting on his fur. .She curled up and fell back asleep.

"She's down for the count, Ma. Good job."

"My pleasure. She had so much fun. You should see the cookies she made." My mother pointed to a container on the other end of the table. I pulled offthe lid and smiled at the snowmen and Christmas trees that Sandy had decorated.

"She's good at this." I pulled one out, biting off Frosty's head before my mom could stop me.

She just shook her head and picked up her whisk."Grab a spoon and get to decorating. It's your turn to help."

Pulling a spoon from the drawer, I tilted my head and asked, "How many more of these do we have to make?"

My mom looked up at the ceiling as she counted the cookies in her head. "Two more batches. Almost done."

I nodded, pulling the tray of undecorated cookies toward me. "We'll have that done in no time." I looked at her out of the corner of my eye. "What was it that you were doing this morning that had her laughing so hard?"

Mom grinned and chuckled to herself. "I was singing to the cookies as they baked. I told Sandy they bake better if you sing to them. She said it wasn't true but I told her that I always sing to my cookies and this time of year, they really like Christmas songs. After that, she sang to every batch I made today."

I ducked my head, remembering another small child completely convinced that one had to sing to one’s cookies for them to bake them properly. I hadn’t learned the truth until my college roommate had walked in on me singing to a batch and thought I'd lost my mind. "Oh Mother, really with that again?"

She laughed, whisking away at the dough. "The singing does my heart good. You enjoy it, don't you?"

I had to admit she was right. I did enjoy the singing and said so.

"Then there ya go. That's the key to making Grandma's cookies. You have to be enjoying yourself. And cooking with love. That's the secret to my cookies."

I laughed and spread frosting on the cookie in front of me. She may have been kidding, but in my heart I knew that this was why her cookies always tasted the best. Enjoyment and love.