Christmas Memories

In a past article I wrote about Christmas traditions, and I mentioned Christmas cookies. When I was a little girl, my mother and I would make cookies at the beginning of December and pass them out. We offered our baked goods to people at church, my mother’s workplace, my teachers at school, and my mother’s bridge club. I remember we had to make a lot of cookies, to make up for the ones my dad ate.

We made Christmas trees, snowflakes, poinsettias, and camels. I hated the camels, because I had to cut up the raisins into tiny eyes and place them carefully on each camel. “Why can’t we have chocolate chips?” I’d complain every year. “You’d have to cut them up anyway, they’re also too big for a camel’s eye. And they don’t cut as easily into pieces as raisins.” I couldn’t argue with her logic, but I fought back by disfiguring the camels. Mom always fussed at me for putting eyes where the nose should be, or making the eye part of the mouth. But she never took over the job.

I loved the Christmas trees best, with the sprinkling of dots for ornaments. Mom put almond extract into those batches, which made them just a little more special too. I wonder if she ever figured out why the trees disappeared first?

When I went off to college, my mother kept going, pulling out her cookie press and baking piles of cookies without me. She’d bake a huge batch—over five dozen cookies—and have it ready at Thanksgiving for my trip back to college. I hoarded those cookies as if they were gold, storing them in the back of the freezer where my roommates couldn’t find them.

Sometimes I’d try to get home and make cookies with Mom before Christmas, but college kept me busy. Then work and marriage, ensuring I never came home to make cookies with my mother. Then children came along.

When Nathan was born, Mom picked up his carrier, placed it on her kitchen island, and pulled out her mixing bowl. I studied my mother as one studies a modern art painting. “Mom, what are you doing?” She pulled out her dry goods. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making cookies with my grandson.”

As Nathan grew, he learned to help his Nana with the annual Christmas cookies. Then Cameron along, in his carrier, and he watched the show until he was old enough to take part. Even as teenagers, the boys helped their Nana make cookies—it was part of their tradition.

Mom passed away in 2016, and none of us had the heart to continue the cookie making. But last year, at Cameron ‘s engagement party, we played a trivia game. The guests had to guess different things about the couple. One of Cameron’s questions was, what is his favorite childhood memory? The answer brought tears to my eyes, because it was making cookies with his Nana. Just typing this paragraph makes me a little weepy. And it made me realize just how important it is to make these traditions. Because one small action, repeated over time, becomes a tradition. And a tradition turns into a precious memory.