Chocolate Chip Cookies

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.

Daddy

My father was somewhat of a wild child in his youth.  No one thought he would grow up to be the serious, successful man he became.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and didn’t always obey the rules.

He and my mother grew up together in the same small town, so they always knew each other.  I think they fell in love at a young age.  Maybe it was because my father was so much fun to be around.  I know he adored my mother until his dying day.

While trying to enlist in the service during WWII, he discovered he was color blind. Consequently, he joined the CB’s (Construction Battalion) and spent the war building bridges and other structures for the Navy.

He learned a lot about construction during his tour, which served him well the rest of his life.  Psychologically he never adjusted to military life.  That old thing about not obeying rules, especially if they didn’t make sense, really got in his way.  He always had a bit of a rebel in him.

After the war he married, went to college and had three children. Those were lean years, but fun according to him.  He always had a funny story to tell about any period of his life.

And living in a mobile home with a family while working and going to school on the GI Bill must have been hysterically funny, because his memories of that time were amazing.  I think my mother remembered having three babies in three years in a small mobile home a little differently!

Daddy was always the epitome of what a father should be. He was smart.  He was witty. He was honest.  He was fair to a fault.  He loved me completely.   He could fix anything. He was a gentleman.

He made mundane things fun.  His sense humor was legendary.  He could make the grumpiest people laugh.  It was magical to watch him.

And he had a way with kids.   Strange children would just slowly come up to him and climb onto his lap.  No words were said.  The children would just snuggle into my dad’s embrace as if they knew him their whole life.  Even he was mystified as to why it happened.

I have such wonderful memories of my father helping me with school work, questioning young boyfriends, driving us all on vacations, trying to punish the three of us children while hiding his smile, teaching our dog tricks, making Halloween costumes and teaching me to drive.

My dad taught me many things but mostly how to treat other people well.  Respect your elders.  Help the needy.  Say please and thank you.  Treat everyone with kindness.  He seldom got angry and was more often forgiving.

I did see him get really frustrated with the recurring plumbing problems in one house we rented and he threw a mop down the stairs.  That was as angry as I ever saw him and really pretty funny now as I remember it.

He wasn’t a perfect man but he was so perfect for me.  He died with dignity and grace after a long full life.  He left behind a wonderful legacy, to the following generations, of a great human being.

He was my Daddy my whole life.

Questions I Wish I Had Asked My Parents

In this year of celebrating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day and remembering all the years in our past, I have been thinking a lot about my parents. They have both passed on now and I have so many questions I wish I had asked them while they were still able to give me the answers.

My parents knew each other their whole lives. They were born in the same town four days apart. My mom was the youngest of all girls and my dad the youngest of all boys. My two grandmothers were in the hospital together and joked about how they should trade babies so they would have a different-sex child in the family.

And those two babies grew up and got married (I always thought that was a great premise for a movie). So where are all the stories of growing up together? Going to school together? Seeing each other around town? Knowing each other forever? I wish I had asked.

And I don’t know exactly how they got married. They didn’t date in High School, so it must have happened during WWII. I wish I had asked how my dad proposed and how they planned the wedding. Did they have a honeymoon? What did they wear? How did they know they were right for each other? I wish I had asked.

I wish I had asked what prompted them both to enter the service. My dad tried to enlist and found out he was color-blind, which meant he could only go into the Navy Seabees – Construction Battalion. My mother, believe it or not, was a Marine. I think she enlisted because of her sister Irene, who also joined the Marines. But why the Marines? I wish I had asked,

I wish I had asked them how they felt about the war. Were they ever afraid, confused, proud, ashamed or conflicted as an American? Were they glad to be in the Military? Sorry they joined? I wish I had asked.

I wish I had asked them how things were after the war. They were married and started having children right away. My dad was in college on the GI Bill. I think they were living in a mobile home park. Sounds like an “I Love Lucy” segment, doesn’t it? That couldn’t have been easy. But how did they manage? Was being a veteran a proud thing? How did they feel? I wish I had asked.

I wish I had asked them about their thoughts of early parenthood. My mother had three children in three years while my dad was going to school. And she had no family nearby. But I never heard the stories. Were they too horrible? Just forgettable? What? I wish I had asked.

How I wish I could sit down with both of them and ask these and other questions. When I had the chance, I didn’t think of it or it didn’t seem necessary. Now that it’s too late, I’m thinking of so many things only they can answer.

My advice to others – ask the questions NOW!! Don’t wait!! And if you are the elder in your family, write down all the stories for the younger ones. Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t wait until someone else thinks of it. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Just don’t wait. Do it NOW. Because then it will be too late and they will say – I wish I had asked.

It Happened On A Monday

It happened on a Monday. It could have just as easily happened on a Tuesday or a Thursday, but yes, it was a Monday.

It happened at 6:30 pm to be specific. Again it could have been anytime but I remember it well and it was definitely 6:30 pm on a Monday.

What am I talking about? Mac’s first band concert, of course.

It seems Mac has decided to play the tuba this year – 6th grade. (Can you believe it? Wasn’t he in kindergarten just last year?)

There were tryouts at the beginning of the year on many different instruments. Mac blew into the tuba mouthpiece and the director announced he was “a natural”. My interpretation– “We are short of tuba players and you look pretty good.”

Anyway, Mac now believes he was born to play tuba, which is a good thing. He is in the beginning band, a very good thing. And they had their first concert last Monday night . . . . . at 6:30 pm, a very, very good thing.

The evening started out with Gramps and me arriving at the school and coming in to the auditorium through the back door. All the kids were nicely seated in the audience section and no parents were anywhere to be seen. Suddenly Mac stood up and said to us, “You can’t be here!” What ever happened to “Hello Granny”?

We smiled and waved to him. “Hi, Mac.” Again, “You can’t be here!” He’s very big on rules and regulations lately.

“OK” we said. “We’re leaving. Where are we supposed to be?”

Mac. “Out in the hall! You can’t be here!”

I’m not sure to this day what we were not supposed to see but obligingly we went to the hallway and there were all the other families waiting patiently.

Finally we were allowed back into the auditorium and all the kids were by then on stage in their performance seats. Of course, we could not see Mac. He was one of the four tubas in the back row.

The concert was great with lots of Christmas music. All the instruments were featured throughout the evening including the four tubas in the back row.

The time passed too quickly and before we knew it we were hugging Mac back out in the hall. “Congratulations” and “Good Job” were heard from everyone. Mac was beaming.

How special for him to have both parents and both sets of grandparents hugging him and telling him how great he did. Even his great uncle, a musician, made an appearance and was very impressed.

Nothing feels better than family hugs. Nothing sounds better than family applause. Nothing feels better than family support. Even if it just happened to be a first time ever band concert on a Monday night at 6:30 pm.

The Importance Of Saying I Love You

Every time I say goodbye to anyone I adore, I close with “love you”. Every time I end a phone conversation with a family member, they hear “love you” before I hang up. Every time one of my grandchildren walks out my front door, the last words they hear from me are “love you”.

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I want all my dear ones to carry those words with them whenever they leave my presence. I want them wrapped in my love and good feelings until we meet again.

For some people, that’s hard to do. For some people, those words don’t just roll off the tongue or come up easy in conversation. For some people, saying “I love you” to their own children is a difficulty.

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I think children cannot hear those words often enough. I think they need to hear those words from as many people as possible. I think those words need to be sincere.

Knowing you are loved provides stability and reliability in your life. It develops self-esteem, confidence and pride. Hearing the words of love reminds you of your place in the world, in the community, in the family.

Being told you are loved makes it easier to share your own love with others. You are more likely to love and express that love. It becomes a full circle of loving begets being loved begets loving, etc.

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My family knows I am going to begin and end every conversation with love words. It’s a known fact. It’s expected. If it didn’t happen, they would worry about me. Something would be wrong.

It has now become a tradition, a habit. Something comfortable and familiar that passes between two people. If it didn’t happen – if the words were not spoken – they would be missed. There would be a hole. The relationship would be changed.

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But we don’t forget. We speak the precious words to each other every chance we get. Every time. All the time. Love you. Love you too. And the relationships stay strong.