There were these cookies…”

Chapter Three…The Mission Begins

Mom had baked her “Nut Balls” yesterday morning and yesterday afternoon we had helped her roll these delicate little mouth-watering beauties ever-so-carefully in powdered sugar.

She had explained to us that the cookies needed to stay on the counter overnight…as she said… “to set”.

“But tomorrow I’ll be hiding them in a really good place!” she said.

She was laughing as she told us this and we laughed too.  We also knew that tomorrow we would be getting up real, real early.

Next morning…thinking that we were still innocently asleep in our beds…and not secretly watching her every move from a “not-quite-closed” door that led from the kitchen to the living room…mom carefully began putting the cookies in two red cookie tins.

The tins were identically decorated with green Christmas trees and white snowflakes.  I think they were about 50 years old, but they were only used at Christmas so they looked brand-new.

Then she got out a step-stool from the little closet in the kitchen, climbed up on it and put both the tins on the very top shelf of the kitchen cupboard.

She had chosen the cupboard that went all the way to the top of our kitchen’s 12-foot high ceiling.

Then she grabbed a wooden mixing spoon and pushed them both towards the back of the cupboard so they could not be seen when the cupboard door was open.

Mom worked quickly and quietly so as to not wake her two sleeping children…heh…heh.

“Gee’s Nut Balls” were famous…and were greatly anticipated by friends and family every Christmas.  This year she had made a  double recipe because she was sending some cookies home with everyone.

When she was done arranging the cookie tins, mom got down from the step-stool and started to walk to the closet to put the stool away.

She paused as if hearing something…but…as she turned…Durwood and I quickly and quietly tip-toed back to our bedrooms..

Mission…almost…accomplished!

There were these cookies…”

Chapter Four…Details…Details…

A few minutes later…Durwood and I pretended to stagger sleepily into the kitchen…plopping down at the kitchen table…as we did every morning…to wait for breakfast.

We both faked yawns, stretched and tried to look like we had just crawled out of bed…and that we were ready to eat our standard breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, glass of whole milk, orange juice, coffee, and a couple of Lucky Strike cigarettes…

(I’m just kidding about the coffee and the cigarettes…that was our Mom’s breakfast…this is the Fifties…remember?)

“What are you kids doing up so early?” Mom asked with a big smile on her face…she smiled a lot.  

“Are you getting excited for Santa Claus?  Only four more days!!”

She gave 12-year-old Durwood a “silencing look”…and then smiled encouragingly at me.  She wasn’t quite sure if I still really believed in Old St. Nick…but hey…I wasn’t quite sure either.

Mom had been leaning against the counter by the sink.  She had a cigarette in one hand and a recipe card in the other.

She put the card aside and put out her cigarette in the red and green ash tray I had made for her in kindergarten class last week.

It was supposed to be her Christmas present from me but I couldn’t wait until Christmas Eve to give it to her.  It was so pretty I wanted her to have it right away.  She used it all the time!

“How about I make pancakes instead of eggs this morning?” she asked.  She knew full well what our answer would  be…

“YAY!!!”  We both cheered so loud…our dog Duke, who was sleeping under the kitchen table…woke up and barked once.  Then he went back to sleep.  Good old guard dog, Duke.

No one made pancakes like our mom…I think it was the bacon grease she put in the batter…but what did I know…I was only five years old.

“Actually,” she said as she got down her big “pancake” bowl from the cupboard over the sink, “It’s a good think you did get up early this morning or breakfast would have been  just plain old corn flakes.”

“I’m making Rosettes this morning and you both know the rules when I make those…right?  Hot grease is very dangerous…so no bothering mommy…”

She hesitated and looked over her shoulder at us sitting at the kitchen table and gave us her “very serious look”…which she only used when she was “very serious”.

No coming into the kitchen, no talking to me and no asking me for ANYTHING AT ALL until I give you the All Clear.  Got it?”   She waved the recipe card back and forth for emphasis.   

We both appropriately “seriously” nodded our heads…but then  I turned and gave Durwood a dirty look.

Sure…it had only been “a small fire”...but let’s face it…he’s the one who had started it.

(You didn’t think I would forget to tell you about “the fire”…did you?)

Stay tuned…

There were these cookies…”

Chapter 5 “The Fire…”

Durwood had gotten a junior chemistry set for his birthday a few months ago and “young and carefree “Uncle Jack”, who lived downstairs from us in the duplex that our grandma owned, gave Durwood some gun powder to use in his experiments.

(Of course, young and carefree Uncle Jack had fought in the Battle of the Bulge during  World War II, so he probably figured a little gun powder was just…a little gun powder…and not a big deal.)

The day of the fire, mom and I were peacefully sitting at the kitchen table having so much fun coloring in my new Little Lulu coloring book.

We were drinking cherry Kool Aid and planning our bus trip to downtown Minneapolis that afternoon to buy me new school clothes…when suddenly we heard dopey Durwood frantically screaming from his bedroom…“FIRE!!  FIRE!!”

Mom jumped up and raced into his bedroom.  I was right behind her…holding my glass of Kool Aid.

Durwood was standing on his bed, jumping up and down and screaming hysterically as he wildly pointed to the window curtains above his desk.

The bottom half were completely engulfed in flames and they were spreading!

Mom reached over and quickly yanked them down…curtain rods and all and then turned and snatched the blanket from Durwood’s bed, sending him sailing to the floor and in one swift move she smothered the fire.

It happened so fast!  I couldn’t believe it!  I also couldn’t breathe!

When I had seen the flames, I had started to scream and I couldn’t seem to stop…even when I saw that there was no more fire…

Mom gently took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and gave me a little shake…

“Lottie!  Everything is okay…the fire is out!”

I stopped screaming right away because that’s what you do when your mother tells you “everything is okay”.

But I was still shaking…and the glass of cherry Kool Aid I had grabbed to help put out the fire was spilling onto my hand.

I turned, looked at Durwood and threw the Kool Aid in his face.

Later that night, mom said she thought I had been in shock and that I probably didn’t really mean to throw the Kool Aid at Durwood.

Hmmmmmmm……that could be one reason…

The next day, Uncle Jack “very foolishly” tried to defend himself to my mom…who was his older and much wiser sister…by saying...

“It’s not like I gave him a gun, Gee.  Just relax…”

It should be noted here…that after making that idiotic statement to my mother…Uncle Jack was ordered (by his mother) to turn over half of his paychecks to my mother for 6 weeks…so that she was able to buy new curtains and window hardware, new bedding, new rugs, a new desk and a new lamp for Durwood’s room.

She was also able to pay professionals to come in and repaint Durwood’s bedroom walls and ceiling and re-sand the hardwood floor.

Durwood…showing absolutely no brains whatsoever…had voiced a request for his own television set…which was met with a very dark look from our mom…and so…

Not only would there be no personal television set in his  bedroom…

Durwood would not be watching any television for two months…which was too bad since a television series based on the movie “Tarzan” was just starting…and Durwood would miss the beginning…

There were these cookies…”

Chapter Six…Back to the Mission

After all the Rosettes had been made…we were given the “All Clear” and allowed back into the kitchen.

It was time for our morning snack and today it was 2 Rosettes each…but only after we had sugared the others.

Durwood and I sat down at the kitchen table…and began the delicate task of “Rosette sugaring:  Gently placing the Rosette upside down on a plate filled with sugar and then twisting…twisting…twisting…”.

Mom sat down with us.  “I’m beat.” She said as she lit another Lucky Strike.

She pulled my “Christmas Ash Tray” nearer to her and then gave me a big smile.  (I was so proud…it was so pretty…)

“When I’m done cleaning up, I’m going to take a nap.  After you guys are done with the Rosettes you can go outside and play if you want…it’s starting to snow.  When I get up, we’ll have lunch.”

Durwood kicked me under the table and gave me a sly grin and a head nod…did he think I had forgotten that “mom taking a nap” was the key to a successful mission?  Did he think I was an idiot?

“I still have a few Christmas cards to do…” Durwood said casually.  “Lottie said she would help me.”

“Right, Lottie?” he said…glancing over at me and wiggling his sugar coated finger tips…the only things that actually worked on his cast-enclosed arms.

“Nope!  I’m going outside.”  I said ignoring him.

“I can’t wait to make a snowman!!”  I really had no plans to go outside…I just wanted to see Durwood squirm a little…he shouldn’t have kicked me!

“But, Lottie…” Durwood wheedled.  “Remember you promised you’d help me…?”

I finally looked over at him and he was moving his eyebrows up and down…apparently this was his way of sending me a “secret” message.  Also apparently…he thought our mother was completely blind…since she was looking right at the both of us.

I gave Durwood a blank look as if I had no idea what he was talking about…but then after a few seconds I relented and said…

“Oh, yeah…that’s right.  I forgot.  Maybe the snowman can wait.”

Mom shook her head at our little drama and got up and walked over to the sink.

“Christmas secrets are so much fun, aren’t they?”

I didn’t look at Durwood.  I just kept dipping Rosettes in the sugar and twisting.

I knew he was wondering if I could really pull this off.  Well, don’t worry, Durwood…I could.