Christmas Cookies (#332)

First book of Cookies, by Natalie Haughton

Years ago, my friend JM bought me a cookie recipe book. I tried the recipe for cream cheese sugar cookies for a Christmas party. They were a hit. Sometimes I brought those cookies into work during the holidays, sometimes I took the recipe home and made them for whichever siblings/ parental units I was visiting on the East Coast.

My family started requesting those cookies—probably because the only other person who made cookies was my brother-in-law, Georgia Boy. His gumdrop cookies were a nostalgic holiday tribute to his grandmother. They were also awful.

But even Big Brother wasn’t tactless enough to say this to Georgia Boy. Instead, he and Doctor Sister would wait for Georgia Boy to go on a bike ride and suggest I make cookies and let their children “help.” It was a win-win for them—I’d be entertaining First Niece, Second Niece, and Second Nephew for hours and the kitchen would be unavailable.

Unfortunately, no one in my family has an off switch when it comes to food. The cookies would be eaten within hours and Georgia Boy would have an excuse to make Grandma’s Gumdrops.

I’ve made many modifications to the oatmeal cookie recipe over the years.

I added another batch of Christmas cookies—chocolate cookies with white chips and coconut. They were devoured. I experimented with different kinds of oatmeal cookies, hoping a heartier cookie might slow down the ravening horde (it did not). Big Brother’s Wife joined the Gumdrop Cookie Blockade one year by making cinnamon sugar rugelach cookies, which were fantastic. I asked for her recipe. She just shrugged and said I could use any rugelach recipe.

I found a rugelach recipe in my cookie recipe book and tried various fillings before settling on maple sugar.

Mint chocolate meringues & Berger cookies.

My friend M turned me onto Baltimore’s Berger Cookies. Making those used up the extra ganache from my husband’s November birthday cake (after I added some corn syrup to bougie down the frosting).

I discovered I could use up broken candy canes, the mini-chocolate chips that did not work in rugelach, and leftover egg whites by making mint chocolate meringues.

Once I had a kid of my own, those cookie-making skills proved useful, especially for Christmas playdates (sugar cookies equal a craft AND a dessert!) and as Christmas gifts for teachers. Word got out at Dalton’s Elementary School; I was dragooned into providing hundreds of cookies for the PTA’s Teacher Appreciation Christmas Luncheon. (All my cookies were on plates labeled “Made by Dalton’s Mom.” Clearly cookie bribery worked because Dalton got the best teacher in each grade for the next several years).

Every year, of course, the biggest tin of cookies went to my friend JM, who gave me that first book of cookie recipes. She never failed to be delighted, either.

Which is why it was a shock to learn she GAVE MY CHRISTMAS COOKIES AWAY.

We were having dinner with a mutual friend one November when JM let it slip that one of her neighbors really liked those cream cheese sugar cookies.

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Wait waitwaitWAIT. You’re giving my cookies away?!”

“Well, yeah. You make better cookies than I do.”

Our other friend took one look at my face, muttered, “Restroom,” and fled.

“Do you give them ALL to your neighbor?!” I hissed.

“Oh, no. The kid’s teacher and occupational therapist like them, too. They both think I’m an amazing baker.”

“You’re telling me you are regifting my cookies and pretending you made them?!”

“I don’t say I made them.”

“You let them assume!”

“Maybe. Everyone I give them to is really touched. I don’t have a lot of time and even when I make cookies, and mine don’t turn out as good as yours. So I give people yours. In a way it should be flattering?” she suggested.

“I do not even know what to do with you,” I groused. But since JM and I had been friends since we discovered we were dating the same guy the same night in college, I wasn’t about to end our decades-old friendship over cookies. Especially since she was the catalyst for all those cookies. I merely grumbled, “You’ll be lucky if you get ANY cookies this Christmas,” and let the subject go.

When I got home to Andy and told him the story, he exclaimed, “Wow!” in all the right places.

Then he said, “Didn’t one of your stepmothers or ex-stepmothers give you that really expensive vase that you regifted that to JM and she loved it so much she painted her bedroom wall the same orange and decorated her entire bedroom to match?”

“…maybe.”

“Did you ever tell her—”

“No! And okay, I get that everyone regifts stuff. And, yes, we should normalize that instead of the rampant consumerism that is destroying the planet,” I conceded. “But I thought she liked my cookies. Maybe they aren’t that good. Or maybe…”

“Maybe she just dislikes them as irrationally as you disliked that vase?”

“That vase was ORANGE. Orange is ugly!”

*****

I thought about how JM had said she didn’t have time to bake. It was true. Her son was neurodivergent and homeschooled half the week. Her mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s. JM spent a lot of time at hospitals, nursing facilities, and various therapies.

And surely she didn’t hate my baking. I’d made cakes for her engagement party, her son’s christening cake, and her husband’s birthday cake. Of course, maybe she asked me to make those because I was a cheap (i.e., free) option.

Or maybe she was just trying to give gifts that would garner her mother-in-law and her son a little extra TLC.

Kind of like a mom who labeled her cookies at the school’s Christmas luncheon.

*****

Two weeks later, JM’s oven (circa 1960) broke. There was no way she could get a replacement or fix it before the holidays.

Two days after that, I showed up at her door with shopping bags and said, “Merry Christmas!”

“Uh, what?”

I handed her a bag, explaining, “This one has Tupperware containers with four different kinds of cookies.” Then I handed her the other bag. “This one has a bunch of cute cookie tins and waxed paper. To make it easy for you to give the cookies to teachers and anyone else on your list.”

JM is even less of a hugger than I am. But she beamed and said, “This is great! Thank you!”

I drove home with a warm holiday glow, imagining how much easier I’d made a friend’s Christmas gift-giving.

That good elf glow lasted until New Year’s, when JM’s son told me, “It’s really sweet that you thought any of those cookies would make it out of our house.

We ate them all!”

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

23 thoughts on “Christmas Cookies (#332)”

    1. Thank you, and you are so right about giving up control. Especially when there’s always that one contrary friend who revels in doing the unexpected…and would totally understand if you did the same.

  1. Letting go when you gift someone is a hard thing to do. You want them/it/whatever to land someplace where it’s valued. I have a dear couple who give the worst gifts. Sometimes they will buy it and sometimes I know they got it as a door prize for something. One was a handmade “squirrel” pin. Unfortunately the squirrel had rabbit ears and the paint job was beyond lousy. I didn’t have the heart to regift it, so I tossed it. They bought with money so I was regretful but I also knew I wouldn’t wear it and couldn’t give it away. I love food gifts. You don’t have to store and it’s rare that people throw them out. They may share.

    1. Yes, letting go is a hard skill for judgmental and controlling people like myself to master. I am constantly reminding myself that once you give a gift, it’s just not yours anymore. And you can’t complain about what someone else does with it. I try and think of it like I think of loaning money to a friend or family member: don’t do it with the expectation that you will ever get it back or have any say in how it is used!

  2. I have decided that cookies are just about the best thing ever. Tasty, portable, instant portion control. If you stop at one or two, of course. Which I suppose is a real challenge for many of us.

    I do love me the color orange though!

      1. I don’t even know anymore. I want to say I’ve always loved orange…it’s long been my favorite color…but how much influence the Broncos have over that I couldn’t tell you!

  3. What a good story, full of love and cookies! It’s a bit of a mystery, though. Why did JM give the cookies away every other year and eat them this year? Or is that really true? If not, who is lying? Did her son get old enough to notice the cookies and claim them? On the other hand, who cares. As Kate said, when we give gifts, we have to let go.

    1. Andy’s theory was that JM’s family was having a super stressful year and thus needed the cookies more than in previous years.

      My theory is that JM is just that super contrary friend who enjoys thwarting her super controlling friend.

  4. Firstly, in awe of your baking skills that they win Dalton the best teacher each grade 🙂 I have a friend who also bakes amazing cookies – unfortunately, she lives in Florida and I live in the UK. But I have acquired some of her recipes which are much treasured.

    Great story & I suspect there is an element of truth in both yours and Andy’s theories.

  5. Wow Autumn, with your baking prowess you must be the most popular sibling in the family, AND the most popular mom at school! The photos of your cookies look amazing!!

    And honestly, I’m glad JM got to enjoy all those cookies to herself!! I bet it was hard for her to regift them and not enjoy them herself :). BTW — you’re such a good friend!

    1. I guess I am popular, but it’s also because I bring Andy and his potstickers. The siblings have offered miles for our plane tickets before. (They offered again this year, but it’s still kind of risky to travel and the kid is doing a soccer tournament anyway.)

  6. My natural instinct is to give less cookies next yr. Try a different gift they will have. They don’t have to know your reasons for less cookies.

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