Christmas cookies

I made cookies tonight to take over to a friend’s house for Christmas Eve. As I did I thought about three women, in particular, who taught me to bake. My grandmother was the first baker I knew. She taught me how to use a mixer. Mrs. Smith ruled over our middle school home-ec classes with an iron fist. She also taught me how to use a sewing machine and press a shirt. And Marie was my babysitter from the time I was 11 months old. She made huge numbers of cookies, which she packed onto styrofoam trays her husband got from the butcher. Getting that tray was one of the highlights of Christmas.

So…that’s what I wrote about. In honor of them.



I creamed together butter and sugar
until it was as yellowy soft
as the new chicks at the science museum
and remembered how my grandmother
held her hand over both of mine
moving the old green mixer around the bowl
“Make sure you get it all,” she’d say
“And keep your fingers back.”

I leveled out flour in a red cup measure
and heard Mrs. Smith say:
“Dry measures are for dry ingredients
and wet measures for wet.”
She’d fail you if you got that wrong,
and the next day you would be on dish duty.
No measuring for you.
Cookies are very picky creatures.

I rolled dough into balls and dropped them
on the sheet counting – five rows of four.
Like Marie did winter after winter,
so that on Christmas Eve there were
cookies on so many Styrofoam trays.
Enough for everyone, but we still fought
over the peanut butter ones with the kisses.
And every year she said, “This is the last time.”

I slid a spatula under perfectly round cookies
moving them from baking sheet to cooling rack
and remembered the day my mom lost her job
and when she woke up in the morning
she found dozens of her favorite cookies
– these same ones –
and her daughter, surrounded, saying,
“I didn’t know what else to do.”


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