One of my favorite childhood memories is of baking sugar cookies with my mother. Oh, the anticipation--watching the oven door of the old gas stove as delightful smells filled the whole house, waiting anxiously for my mother to pronounce them “done”.
My brothers and I would sink our teeth into those hot, sweet disks and chase them down with a nice, cold glass of milk. Back in those days, Dawn Heap delivered our milk fresh from the dairy in quart bottles with a cardboard lid. As it sat, the milk separated—cream on top, skim milk on the bottom, and, somewhere in the middle, that elixir we called top milk. Exquisite!
One Saturday morning I woke up wanting those sugar cookies. I was just learning to read, and so I knew I could follow the recipe on the back of the baking soda box myself. And wouldn’t the family be surprised to wake up to fresh-baked cookies!
I measured the sugar and shortening very carefully, just like Mom. Then the directions read, “Cream the shortening and sugar together.” Cream. Hmmm. No, we were out of cream. But I was sure that the top milk would work just as well. How much? At least a cup, I would imagine.
Stir though I might, my cookies just didn’t look like my mother’s, even when I added extra flour. The bowl soon filled with a big, soupy slop. About that time, mom got up and came in. Sobbing in humiliation, I tried to explain what happened. Mom looked at the mess, flour and sugar spread everywhere and mystery goop in the bowl. She smiled and said, “That looks pretty good for a first try, but why don’t we feed this to the pigs? They especially like sweets, you know. Then we’ll try this again.”
My ego was rescued, the pigs got an extra something with their breakfast, and mom and I made a whole new batch of cookies, carefully creaming together the sugar and shortening.
I’ve thought of that experience often, how easy it would have been for my mom to snap. How convenient it would have been to put off the cookie baking (if we did it at all) until after breakfast, and we had cleaned up the mess and the house and all of the other chores we did on Saturday. Instead, Mom took that time, right then, to be with me. I’ve never forgotten the warmth I felt as we worked together, two women in the kitchen. It is still one of my fondest memories of childhood.