My mother loved to cook. That is to say, she loved to bake. Everyday meals were not her forte, but desserts and special occasions were her real love.
She had a real sweet tooth (which I inherited!), and so we had a dessert at every meal. Yes, even breakfast had something sweet and yummy.
Mother was well known for her homemade pies, especially apple. The crust was always crispy and golden. Daddy loved her apple pie with a slice of cheese on it. I think he learned that growing up in South Dakota.
Christmas was a big baking time. She would start in September, making cookies, candies, bars and pies. Everyone would get something – the mailman to the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to all the neighbors.
There was always something in the cookie jar and more stacked in the freezer, waiting for the right occasion. Mother never went to visit anyone empty-handed. That was her rule, “Never go out with a bare face or an empty hand.”
The one item that brings back the most memories of my childhood is Mother’s chocolate chip cookies. Just the aroma of the cookies baking makes me feel like a girl in her kitchen, helping her bake. I suddenly feel all warm and safe with a smile on my face, eager to see how the cookies turn out.
Then there is the joy of tasting the first warm cookie from the oven. That was always “cook’s treat” at Mother’s house.
My daughter feels the same about my chocolate chip cookies. When she takes a bite now, she closes her eyes and sighs, “Ah, my childhood in a cookie!”
Her son, Mac, says my chocolate chip cookies are the best. Little does he know he’s talking about Mother’s recipe, passed down through all these years.
And I bet his children and their children will say the same.
Peggy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
- 1 C packed brown sugar
- 1 C Crisco
- 1 C white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 t vanilla
- 1 t soda
- 1 t salt
- 2 T water
- 12 oz. semisweet chips
Cream sugars and Crisco. Add eggs. Sift salt and soda with flour. Add to creamed mixture. Add water. Add chips by hand. Drop onto cookie sheet by spoonful . Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on rack.
The older I get, the more I realize that children have some of the best answers to the basic questions of life. They seem to instinctively know how to manage the twists and turns of everyday living.
With all my education, experience and wisdom, I have learned to look to a five-year-old for some of the wisest lessons in getting through life.
Here are my top ten favorites:
Play is the best medicine. Children have the ability to play with anything, anytime. It’s how they release their emotions and feelings. It’s also how they heal themselves.
Take a nap when you’re tired. Children can sleep anywhere, when they need to. What a great gift is that!
Always greet your elders with a hug and a kiss. This is good advice your whole life – no matter how old you are. Grannies always love to be greeted this way.
Every day is a fresh start. No matter what happens today, no matter how bad it is or who hurts them, tomorrow is always a new day to a child. All is forgotten and everything is possible again. Each morning is a clean slate.
Be courageous. Sing out loud. Dance to the music. Children are not confined by fear of failure or shame. They embrace life.
Laugh every day. Children see silliness everywhere. Look for the humor in your everyday life.
Be active. Get up and move. Go outside. Find something to do. Contact a friend. Children rarely sit in a rocking chair staring into space, thinking about the past.
Scars are badges of honor. Scars are sources of pride to children, not signs of weakness. Be proud of your scars. Tell the story. Make yourself the hero. Pass on the wisdom.
Try new things. Children do not fear the unknown. They will try a new game, dive into a pool or jump on a trampoline. Be adventurous. Get out of your comfort zone. Step into the unknown.
Notice the little things. Children can be fascinated by the smallest of things – ants crossing a sidewalk, the tiny feet of birds, the wings of a bumblebee. The things we take for granted bring them great joy. Take notice of all the small miracles around you, and see how much more beautiful your life will be.
Becoming more childlike is one of the wisest things we can do as we age.
The one thing I always wanted was family. I loved the thought of having many cousins, aunts and uncles. I always wanted a sister. I thrived on large family gatherings.
Having said all that, family is the one thing I was never blessed with. I don’t relate to either of my brothers. One just doesn’t respond in any way. The other was in the prison system most of his adult life and died early.
My mother died at age fifty and none of her family has spoken to us since then. My dad’s family has never related to us in all these years. I have cousins I have never met, seen or talked to.
Because Gramps is a genealogist, I know more about my distant relatives than I do about relatives my own age. It broke my heart as a child. Wanting what I couldn’t have and having no way to fix it. I had no power to get the family I wanted, when I was young.
When I got married and had children, I thought now I had the family I was looking for. I had a devoted husband and two children.
Except now our son is not speaking to us. Our daughter and her family live nearby but we only see them about once a month. But lucky me, I have our niece who has become our daughter and her five children, who have become our grandchildren. We see them a couple times a year and those times are so special.
Still there are no large family gatherings. No extended family to relate to.
So I have devised my own way to have a family. I have friends that care about me the way a relation would. Some of these friends have been in my life for many years and some are recent acquaintances. But all of them fill a hole in my heart and my life.
My friends share my love of sewing and quilting. We love to sit together with fabric, needle and thread in our hands, sharing our thoughts about everything. We care for each other in good times and difficult times.
My friends call me. They check-up on me. They ask me if I’m okay. I do the same for them.
My friends invite me for dinner and holidays. We have lunch together. We share potlucks and buffets.
My friends share my good news and are happy for me. They hold my hand and cry with me if the news is bad. My friends do not abandon me – ever.
My friends are my family. My lifetime wish has been fulfilled. I have many sisters now. I have gatherings large and small. I have the equivalent of dozens of cousins.
The one thing I always wanted, I now have to my heart’s content. I couldn’t be happier.
The invitation said “casual” dress. So Gramps and I took them at their word and arrived in jeans and T-shirts. The only other couple we knew, besides the hosts, were also dressed as we were.
Everyone else had on slacks, blouses and button-down shirts. We four looked like the country bumpkins of the group.
How did they know what “casual” meant? How did we not?
At first, I was just embarrassed. I felt I had somehow let our hosts down, that I had embarrassed them in some way.
Then the four of us began to be treated as if we were inferior to everyone. As if we did not understand what they were talking about. As if we were confused children.
Even our hosts were rude to us and shamed us in front of the others. If it hadn’t hurt so much, I probably would have found it interesting what a difference our clothes made in that social situation.
Because we were underdressed, we weren’t allowed to fit in the group. We were laughed at, ignored and talked down to – because of our attire!
By then, I was angry and wanted to leave. But the other three of our little foursome didn’t want to give up so easily. So we four formed our own small party.
We partook of the food, the drinks, the lovely home and our own companionship. We found our own little spot and had a great conversation all to ourselves.
I have no idea what the rest of those people did or talked about.
But when Gramps and I left, we could honestly tell the hostess, “We had a great time!”
Virus confinement required
Still we’re okay.