There are Christmas gifts that transcend the time, place, and people who receive them. Sometimes, these gifts do not immediately appear to reach that height. And yet, when one scratches beneath the surface, one finds that it is these gifts, however mundane, that aspire to greatness and succeed. Such is the case with my Grandma’s cookies.When I was a child, the entire family would gather with Grandma and Grandpa in their small four room house for Christmas dinner. Grandpa had a wood stove in the sitting room that he stoked up until the iron nearly glowed. In the overwhelming warmth of that fire, we would gather around a pine tree that Grandpa cut down in the woods and Grandma decorated with popcorn strings, old Christmas ornaments, home-made gingerbread men, candy canes, a string of indoor-outdoor lights with huge bulbs, and some tinsel icicles.
Each of the grandchildren exchanged gifts (we drew names at Thanksgiving so we would not have to buy something for everyone). And eventually, Grandma would give each grandchild a small toy wrapped with inexpensive gift-wrap. Then, after dinner with the din of kids playing and adults talking over the noise, we would find the cookies. All kinds of cookies. There were sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, gingerbread men, and best of all there were the pecan balls covered in that white, powdery sugar that gets all over your clothes, hands, and face. And to each of us, Christmas was complete.
After we all got older and I was in college, Grandpa died and the Christmas day gathering got a bit smaller as each of the grand-kids seemed to have more and more visits to make and other things to do. And so, Christmas at Grandma’s changed a little. Instead of all visiting at once, we each made it a point to stop by and visit with her individually. Although it lasted all day for her and was probably pretty tiring, she was always excited to see each and every one of us as we came in the door. Grandma didn’t drive and after Grandpa died, she could not get out to buy Christmas gifts for each of us, so she had an idea that has become a tradition. Grandma made cookies. Lots of cookies.
Grandma made up a bag of cookies for each grandchild with their own special assortment of the flavors we each liked best. I got lots of pecan balls and sugar cookies, since she knew I did not enjoy gingerbread men quite as much. My cousin David, always got lots of peanut butter cookies. Cousin Missy got sugar cookies and peanut butter. Grandma put the cookies in plastic bags and then put each bag into a small, brown paper sack that she had saved from a visit to the grocery store. On the outside of each bag, she wrote our name so they would not get mixed up. Although the plastic bag was to keep them fresh, it was probably unnecessary, because the cookies never lasted that long anyway.
In themselves, they were just cookies. And yet, their importance cannot be underestimated. Those cookies have taken on a meaning beyond their taste. They are flavors, memories, emotions, gifts, and love all wrapped up into a tasty morsel that only she can create. I know because I’ve tried to use her recipe and my cookies just do not taste the same. My Grandma has made cookies every Christmas for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I live, I will remember those cookies, Christmas at Grandma’s house, and the love she baked into each and every one.
Author’s Note: This article was written many years ago and originally published in an edition of a newsletter, TPConnections, that I used to send to all of my clients. The original circulation of the story was about 200 copies. I am re-publishing it here primarily because I like the story very much and because I’m hoping it will find a wider audience. I hope you enjoyed it.