There were these cookies…”

Chapter Two…The Beginning…

I remember that day well…cue appropriate 1950’s music and allow the images in your brain to go all wavy…flashback…flashback…

…going back in time…going back in time…to the magical “Fifties”…when all things were wonderful and people ate bacon whenever they wanted…

“Look, Lottie,” said Durwood.  “This year you’re the only one that can do this…I really need you…”

And by “this” he meant stealing one of the little red Christmas cookie tins that…year after year…held the much loved and supremely tasty cookies that our wonderful mother, Gee (as in Gee Whiz) Johnson, baked every Christmas and therefore were appropriately called “Gee’s Nut Balls”.

It was at this point that dopey older brother Durwood…in order to further emphasize his need of my help this year…held up both his arms so I could plainly see his two wrists…solidly encased in heavy, white plaster casts from his elbows down to and including the greater part of his fingers.

Absolutely Necessary Explanatory Note:

When movie goers saw “Tarzan” grabbing a vine and swinging over a creek that raged furiously 50 feet below him as he yelled a mighty warrior cry to impress “Jane, his lady-friend”…while trying to save her from certain death…

…it should be noted the vine Tarzan grabbed was in all probability a strong rope…or perhaps even a wire cable and…incidentally there was no creek…nor was there dangerous, rampaging water…

…to further burst the cinematic bubble…he was probably about 6 feet off the floor…which I am sure was suitably padded…

HOWEVER…for dopey Durwood…on a forbidden trek to Minnehaha Falls with four of his very best buddies, the vine he grabbed to do some “swinging” was very real…AND…it snapped midway over a shallow creek that ran from the falls to the Mississippi River…

Durwood fell about 40 feet…the whole time screaming in terror on his way to “two, really, badly, broken wrists”….the pain of which he had to endure in solitude as he slogged home alone since…

All four of his “forever loyal to the end” best friends had bolted in total panic…fearful that they would somehow be blamed for Durwood’s fall.

“I didn’t see a thing!!  I don’t remember…” was the excuse they all settled on as they fled the scene…but not before…

…making sure that Durwood was not dead or in danger of dying any time soon.

They jumped on their bikes and hightailed it home…confident that they had done all that they could.

Later…every one of his friends agreed that they  were very sure they would have stayed if Durwood had been…you know…dead.

It was during his lonely walk home, that Durwood forlornly pondered which was worse…the pain he was currently now suffering as he shuffled along or the unholy reaction he knew would be coming from his usually calm and easy-going mother…

“First the fire…and now this…” he muttered to himself.  “She’s gonna kill me…”

He turned the corner on Longfellow Avenue and saw his mother raking leaves in the front yard…she appeared to be very happy since she was whistling.

It was only then that Durwood started to cry.

The intense pain apparently fogged his brain and prevented him from coming up with any believable or redeemable lie…so he was unfortunately left with telling his mother the simple yet profoundly stupid truth…”I saw it done on TV, ma…”

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 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.