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Christmas, Love & Cookies

There are Christmas gifts which transcend time, place, and the people who give or receive them. Sometimes, these gifts do not immediately appear to reach that level. And yet, when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find these gifts, however mundane, aspire to greatness and succeed. Such is the case with my Grandma’s cookies.

Mary Louise Tarver aka “Grandma”

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 stove nearly glowed. In the overwhelming warmth of that fire, we would gather around a pine tree Grandpa cut down in the woods and Grandma decorated with popcorn strings, paper chains, 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 which gets all over your clothes, hands, and face. And then to each of us, Christmas was complete.

Since then we’ve all gotten older,  Grandpa passed away and the Christmas day gatherings have become a smaller affair as we grand-kids now seem to have more and more visits to make and other things to do on Christmas. And so, Christmas at Grandma’s has changed a little. Instead of all visiting at once, we each stop by and visit with her individually. Although the visits last all day for her and the day is probably pretty tiring for her, she is always excited to see each of us as we come thru the door. Grandma doesn’t drive and after Grandpa died, she could not get out to buy Christmas gifts for each of us, so she put a new twist on Christmas which is our new tradition. It starts like before, Grandma makes cookies. Lots of cookies.

She then makes up a bag of cookies for each grandchild with their own special assortment of the cookies we each like best. For example, I get lots of pecan balls and sugar cookies, since she knows I did not enjoy gingerbread quite as much. My cousin David, always gets lots of peanut butter cookies. Cousin Missy gets sugar and peanut butter cookies. Grandma puts the cookies in plastic bags and then puts each plastic bag with some peppermints, nuts and/or an orange or an apple into small, brown paper sacks she saves from her visits to the grocery store. On the outside of each bag, she writes our name so they won’t get mixed up. Although the plastic bag is to keep the cookies fresh, it is probably wholly unnecessary, because the cookies never last that long anyway.

In themselves, they are just cookies. And yet, their importance cannot be underestimated. Those cookies have a meaning far beyond their sweetness. They are flavors, memories, emotions, gifts, and love all wrapped up into a tasty morsel only she can create. I know because I’ve tried to make cookies using her recipe and my cookies 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 bakes into each and every cookie.

Author’s Note: This article was written many years ago and originally published in an edition of a newsletter, TPConnections, 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. My Grandma passed away many years ago, but true to my promise, I’ve never forgotten her or her cookies. I hope you enjoyed this story and hopefully, it reminded you of some similar story that is special to you and your Grandma. Merry Christmas! 

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  1. Thanks, Paul. As I was reading your article, it brought back those memories as if it all happened yesterday. My kids will never understand those “good” days. I miss them both. Have a wonderful and safe. Holiday and Merry Christmas to you both.

  2. Helen Hunter Knight

    This was sent to me by a friend a few days ago at a time when I really needed a heartfelt down-to-earth message such as yours certainly is.
    It was uplifting and helpful getting my attention back to the things that really count and matter in life.
    Just wanted you to know I am glad you wrote it and my friend shared it. I will do the same!

  3. I enjoyed your post, and it brought back memories of the good ol’ days !!! Now days are so busy, and just not as fun as the old days. Thanks for sharing….

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