I’m an overweight, bald, goofy looking, fifty eight year old man whose mom loves him. I don’t know why, but she does. I can see it in her eyes, they light up when she sees me. Every year since she moved into an assisted living center I invite her over to make cookies at Christmas. I make the dough ahead of time so we can just bake when she gets there.
We always make the same kind. Sour Cream Sugar Cookies, Russian Tea Cookies, Molasses Cookies and Gum Drop Bars. These are the cookies she made for me and my family when we were kids. They are my memories and tastes of Christmas. Mine aren’t near as good as the ones I remember her making, but I think it’s important we make them nonetheless.
For me, Christmas is a time when friends and relatives who have passed away seen a little closer. My Aunt Agnes, my mom’s oldest sister who never had any children of her own but who never forgot a birthday, or Christmas of any of her dozens of nieces and nephews. She’d always send a card with a dollar or two and a stick of gum. It could have been a million dollars and we wouldn’t have been any happier. She’s been gone almost forty years but at Christmas she comes back to me.
My dad died in 2016 but he’s here too. I don’t really miss him but I talk to him sometimes. Every Christmas he made his mother’s Blue Cheese Dip. He made a point to show me how to do it before he died. I’ll give you his recipe just as he told me.
“You take a 24oz. container of Cottage Cheese.” He used a rubber spatula to scrape it into a glass bowl.
He took a small cube of Blue Cheese and unwrapped it. “Ok, now you take the Blue Cheese and break it up and you use this.” He picked up a pastry blender with a faded green handle that had been his mother’s. “You take this pastry blender and you mix it together until it’s smooth. Here, you try it.”
I cut the Blue Cheese into the Cottage Cheese until it was creamy.
“That’s good.” He tapped the blender on the side of the bowl. “Now this is the most important thing.” Dad held up an onion. “You need to use this size onion.” The onion was a little smaller than a baseball. “But this is the key. You cut the onion real fine. Real small and fine. Here, I’ll show you.” He peeled the onion and diced it very, very fine then added it to the cheese mixture. “Now, you mix it again.” Here, you do it.
I mixed the onion and cheese together. The moldy sharp smell of the Blue Cheese and the bright smell of the onion wafted from the bowl. Dad handed me a spoon.
“Take a bite.”
We both took a taste. Dad nodded.
“This is how it’s supposed to taste.” He looked me in the eye. “You got that? This is how it’s supposed to taste.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I’ve had this before.”
Dad shook his head. “Remember, this is how it’s supposed to taste.”
“Why are you showing me this? This isn’t that hard.”
“Because you’ll have to make it when I’m gone, and you need to know how to do it. You need to know how it’s supposed to taste.”
I make the dip every Christmas and Dad shows me how to do it each time. I’ll have to show my daughter how to do it. When I’m gone it will be her job to keep it going.
When we were done making cookies I took Mom back to her home and she showed me the little Christmas tree my sister put in her room. She showed me the stable my Uncle Henry made out of a wooden fruit crate sixty plus years ago. I’ve seen it every year of my life but I looked at it again. Uncle Henry was right there with us.
Before I left I gave my mom a hug and said, “I love you, Mom.”
Her blue eyes sparkled. “I love you too. Lots and lots.”
Suddenly I was a little boy again, and Mom the most beautiful woman in the world.