I remember the way the white counter tops would be covered with scores of paper plates, droopy under their load: cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.
I remember the way my mother would be shifting and sifting and stirring and quiet, but content during this baking, her cheeks pink from the oven, her hair black and just slightly askance. And I remember how the powdered sugar was never enough and how, by the time I was 16 and able to drive, my mom would send me last minute to the store—for butter, for pecans, for coconut. I remember tin foil, the way it crunched around itself, on a cookie sheet, over some dough, hugging the edges of the green mixing bowl.
I remember being in the van, a child still, and changing the words to Christmas carols, or listening to my dad blast Handel’s Messiah through the back speakers because the front speakers didn’t work, as he stopped in front of our friends’ houses and dropped us off. We would sneak to the door with our cookie plates, giggling under our breath as my dad started to slowly pull forward; and after we left the cookies, banged on the door in a loud, cop-raid sort of way, and ran away frantically to jump into the slowly moving van—it’s sliding door wide open— we would yell at the top of our lungs, “Hit it, Ann!” Which meant of course for my dad to drive, drive, drive! To drive like mad, drive like the wind. But I don’t remember why we said Ann because my dad’s name is Bill.
I remember that we called this doorbell ditching, “pixies.” As in, “I’m going over to the Joneses to do a pixie! Want to come?”
I do. I do. I do!
I remember the Christmas of 1996 and going to meet my [then] boyfriend’s family in Puerto Rico. I carried with me (in my carry on, two planes, one layover, many many hours of odd ball conversations with foreign seatmates) a basket of all sorts of my mom’s Christmas cookies that we baked together. I packed them carefully between layers of waxed paper and tried to keep the chocolate ones separated from from the dozen or so ensconced in confectioners sugar, while hoping the aroma of peanut butter balls didn’t permeate the entire thing. I offered them to my future in-laws with nothing more than a single-sentenced holiday greeting, but baked into them was at least 10 words more: “Here, take these. I love your son and I want you to know it.”
(We do! We do! We do!) At least that’s what I tell myself they said, and that I won them over with crumbly buttery goodness at first bite. Because they ate those cookies, they really tore into them. And with each satisfied bite I gleaned invented thoughts: “She likes to bake, she likes food— we like her.”
After the Puerto Rican and I were married, we began the quest for baking the perfect chocolate chip cookie. One time we even delayed a move due to worries over our new oven’s calibration—what would this do to our long sought, hard won, perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe? Would it be all for naught?
Our blood runs cookie. Or chocolate syrup. Or dulce de leche. We love the sweets. My kids know that breakfast can begin with cookies and that if the afternoon is glum (or great for that matter), we will probably, at some point, pull from the pantry the Kitchen Aid and the flour. We make gingerbread in July. We always have dough chilling in the refrigerator.
So it’s curious that the great tradition of Christmas pixies has been lost on my children.
I remember last year, when the cookies-for-neighbors didn’t go out because they never made it off the cooling rack or domed cake plate. We just kept eating them. I remember when we finally made it out to deliver a little something moments before the big day, my daughter was insistent on caroling and I remember how I said, “Okay”¦” in the exact same slow motion moment that: 1.) The door of our neighbor opened up and 2.) My five year old burst into song. There was nothing to do but sing along. And blush.
I think this year I will start my cookie baking today. Ahem, I mean my cookies-to-give-away baking today. And this year I will take my now six year old little apprentice under my wing and with sticky hand and wooden spoon teach her thus: “Baking, dear. It’s all about the cookies and not so much about the songs.” And if we do our baking job right, she just might get herself some in-laws. But of course, she has years to learn that.