Life doesn’t come with a manual. It comes with a mother.
I think of you every day. Little memories come to me as I glance at your photo on my jewelry chest. It’s the old snap of us on my 4th birthday. We are looking up bright-eyed with happiness at the unseen photographer. Sometimes I stop and study the images, wondering about our lives then and how we would share it now.
Your cookie baking Christmas tradition binds us tenderly together in this season of joy. You loved making delicious trays of cookies and candies for us, dear friends and co-workers. I remember tins and Tupperware stacking up as you baked. You began just after Thanksgiving since you had such a huge volume to produce.
Your artistry was masterful as you assembled the trays with delectable confections. Round balls, cut-outs, drop cookies, bars, tiny pastry shells of pecan pie. Chocolate peanut butter balls danced among the sugary orbs. The tins and platters were also part of the gift, selected with the receiver in mind. Ours were child-themed for your twin grandsons. I still have those trays, and the dinged up Courier and Ives tins that housed your treats.
After you died, we three kids were lamenting the gaping hole we spun through, especially at Christmas. We always waited with happy anticipation for your goodies to arrive on Christmas Eve. When we were cleaning the home place out I found your cookie cookbooks. This is treasure beyond any gold I could imagine. Pages are marked with snipped coupons and recipes torn from magazines. Some bear the mark of your cookie palooza with grease stains and dried flour. I understand how that happens now that I make them too–my dusty fingers trace ingredients as I mix and measure. Many of your recipes are handwritten in your tiny, slanting script on yellowed index cards. Just for pleasure I trace the words, feeling connection to your spirit by tending to the hearts of our loved ones through kitchen magic.
I decided to carry on your tradition. We can’t have you back, but can enjoy your legacy of sweet devotion. I honor you each Christmas, using some of your recipes to craft love into each bite I send to our family.
Our favorite Mallette family cookie is your mint surprise. It’s a toll-house dough cut-out in a flower shape with a dark chocolate mint tucked within. I use your recipe transcribed from a long ago phone call to you when our boys were little. It’s a touchstone to my life as a young wife and mother, triggering the image of me sitting on the stool in my old gold and avocado wallpapered kitchen in my Syracuse house. There’s no date so I’m not sure what year it was pre-1996. It’s also quite cryptic, a list of ingredients but no directions on how to mix, roll and shape so I’ve had to master the production on my own. I have your cookie cutter also found in the great clean-out. It’s deceptively tricky to make these cookies. The amount of butter makes the dough prone to tearing. Also rolling it out must be done with care so they bake evenly. I sent Debbie the recipe one year and she’s working on her technique, learning the intricacies of the dough.
Cookie season is my ultimate communion with you Mom. I play Christmas music while mixing, rolling, cutting, baking and decorating your mint surprise. I remember your competent hands doing the same on our old battered yellow counter. The whiff of sugar from the oven as they bake, golden brown. The first taste of the still-warm cookie, melting in my mouth with sweet happiness. Your love is the secret ingredient. Now passed on from you, through me, to our family and friends.
On these most sacred days, I feel your love as keenly as if you were standing with me in your comforting, warm embrace. Our family will feel it too as this cookie maker sends your treats off to each home to share in your Christmas joy.
I love you now and always.