Some Days You Need to Bake Cookies

I don’t need cookies. But some days I need to bake them. Like the other day, when I was babysitting my two year old grand and wanted to make a memory with her. I had an abundance of peanut butter, so they became the cookie of choice.

I took out my mama’s most beloved cookbooks and looked up the recipe in both. These were the cookbooks I remembered Mama using my whole childhood. The ones falling apart and taped together, with worn pages that had torn through the holes that held them in place.

I looked through them gingerly, these almost sacred artifacts of the past. These books that sing stories to me of Mama young and healthy and laughing. These books that bring back the sweet scents of cookies fresh from the oven and Mama, rosy and smiling, saying, “Wait until they cool a bit.”

I remember standing on a chair at the counter, helping mix up cookies. So, I help my granddaughter stand on a chair by me, and she delights in trying to grab each measuring cup and spoon from me before I quite have it filled. She gleefully drops each measured spoon and cup full into the mixing bowl. And then energetically stirs with my grandma’s big wooden spoon, flipping cookie dough out of the bowl in the process.

I roll the dough into balls and she keeps rearranging them on the cookie sheet. I take a fork from my childhood days, and show her how to press the dough ball down. She pokes at the balls eagerly. I wonder to myself what I was like “helping” Mom when I was two years old.

I looked in my china hutch and found a plate Mama gave me when she still had her memories. She said it was one of her mama’s plates. I think she said it came in a big bag of oatmeal. I know she said some of their dishes did.

I put the cookies I baked, using Mama’s recipe, on the plate that belonged to Grandma. We ate some while they were fresh and still slightly warm. They don’t look as good as Mama’s cookies did. They don’t taste quite as good as I remember Mom’s either. But there is something satisfying in tangibly seeing this connection to Mama’s past.

Something about this plate of cookies makes my memories of Mom and Grandma more vivid. I can picture them sitting at the table with me now, eyes sparkling, nibbling cookies, laughing and talking about recipes and grandchildren and life.

I wonder how many cookies they baked with their own children, and then with their grandchildren. Now they are together in Heaven. But I feel their presence. I sense their smile. “It’s your turn now!” is the message I hear.

Carry on the legacy! Love your family well. Treasure your grands. Pray for them and love them and teach them about Jesus. Tell them about their Great-Grandma and Great-Great Grandma. Read to them, laugh with them, sing with them, dance with them.

And don’t forget the cookie baking. The memories are worth the mess.

I don’t need cookies. But somedays I need to bake them.




Back in Time

It finally came!

My aunt had called me several weeks ago to check in about Mom. She’d mentioned that she’d found a few pages from a letter from my mom, in one of my grandma’s old cookbooks.

“The letter has a recipe for doughnuts in it.”

“I don’t ever remember Mom even making doughnuts.”

“Well, you must have been young when she wrote this, because Michael wasn’t born yet. She says she made cinnamon rolls too, that your dad loved. Would you like the letter?”

“Yes! I’d love it!” I answered.

“Okay, I’ll mail it to you.”

And I’ve been checking the mailbox daily, like a child waiting for a prize to come, ever since. I almost missed it today, as it hid between bills and charity requests. And then I saw it– and my heart soared!

I do have a few recipes in Mama’s handwriting already. But letters and cards have sadly disappeared over the years. And something about reading a letter Mama wrote herself to her own mama brought me back in time.

Back to a time when Mama was younger than my oldest daughter, but living a whole country’s length away from her own mama.  A time when long distance calls were expensive and no one had computers or texting. A time when thoughts were written by hand on paper and a stamp was required. A time when Mama didn’t have her own car and had to figure out a way to get that stamp.

A time when doughnuts were homemade by Mama and her cinnamon rolls were loved by Daddy. A time when she had to stop writing so she could go take care of her little daughter, Sherry.

I wish the whole letter had been saved. But reading even these two pages paints misty memories of a sweet, joyous era. I can almost smell the freshly baked cinnamon rolls. I see my smiling Mama carrying me into the kitchen. The letter to Grandma is still on the table, waiting for that stamp. I see Daddy coming home and enveloping us both in a big hug.

I choke up just picturing the tender scenes. I read the pages through blurry eyes.

It was such a precious time. And now as we take care of Mama, it’s a challenging time, but still rich with moments to treasure. There are still cuddles. There are still sweet words shared and moments of laughter. There are still songs sung and soft touches. And I think the love keeps growing even deeper. More sacrificial. More full of tender mercies.

We haven’t had any homemade doughnuts or cinnamon rolls for decades… maybe I need to make that happen.

And I know I need to remember, that even the very best memories I have here pale in comparison to the ones we’ll make together someday in heaven, because of the love of Jesus and His sacrificial love for us.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”    I Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)





Mama’s Lilacs

Whenever I smell lilacs I think of Mama. Mom and Dad planted a  whole big border of them in the back yard when I was growing up, and they are still flourishing  there today. Mom used to pick big bunches of them and fill vases with their beauty and the house with their scent.

When we were in grade school Mom would send bouquets of them with me for my teachers, the stems wrapped in wet paper towel and tin foil.

And I still remember, the year I miscarried a much wanted baby. Mom brought over a bouquet of lilacs with some crab apple blossoms mixed in. And the scent and simple arrangement brought a gentle comfort to my heart.

Now I walk right through a gap we cut in the lilac hedges, as I use my backyard gate, and walk into Mama’s yard. And when the lilacs are blooming I always stop and smell them and revel in their abundance and aroma. Because they are short lived. And their beauty is fleeting.

I cut branches from Mama’s bushes, and from our own lilacs that we grew from runner shoots of Mom and Dad’s bushes. And I fill vases in my house. And I break off a few stems for Mama.

I put them in a vase and set them close to her. But she doesn’t look at them. I hold them up in front of her, close to her face, and say, “Mama, do you want to smell the lilacs?” But she just looks confused, or tries to bite them.

So I leave the vase on her side table. And hope that the sweet smell brings back memories of sunnier days. And of smiles. I hope they bring a gentle comfort to her heart.

And before I leave, I stop and bend close to Mama. And I take in the beauty of her softly wrinkled face. I stroke her silver hair. I hold her hand. I kiss her forehead and say, ” It’s me, Mom. I’m Cheryl. I love you, Mama.”

And I walk back home, through the gap in the lilac hedges, that Mama planted and loved.








A Song of Mama Love

I sit next to Mama on the love seat and start to sing our Bushel and a Peck song. “I Love you…”  I sing and then I pause for Mama to sing her part.

But instead of the next line, “A bushel and a peck”, Mama sings, “I know that you do…” making up her own melody.

I smile and try again with the same results.

We sit and talk as Mama pats my arm. Actually it’s more of a flutter tapping. As if she is counting thirty two beats to a measure. But so gently, and her hands are so soft. Sometimes she strokes my arm. Sometimes she slides her hand under my sleeve and flutter taps for a while there.

And I relish every little touch.

She holds my hand, and I remember the security I felt holding her hand when I was young. And I think about all the meals her hands have prepared. And all the dresses her hands have sewn and all the comforting they have given to babies and all the words they have typed at work.

And now those hands are pale and the skin is so delicate and wrinkly and semi-transparent. Some joints bulge with arthritis. And the hands no longer sew or type or cook.

But Mama’s hands still comfort her daughter. And her gentle flutters tap out a song of Mama love.

Chopping Onions

Everyone knows that chopping onions makes you teary.  So, it’s no surprise that my eyes were blurry  today.

I was having lunch with a couple of dear friends, and decided to make Mom’s tuna salad recipe for the sandwiches.   I almost never make it, because it has chopped pickles in it and I’m the only one in my house now who likes pickles.  And it has hard boiled eggs in it, and that takes time and effort, and it’s just easier to make tuna salad without them.

But I knew these friends ate pickles, and I was suddenly craving Mom’s tuna salad. As I minced the onion and chopped the eggs and pickles, I kept picturing Mom….

In the memory “movie” of my mind she is young and vibrant and smiling and knows how to do everything. She is laughing and her eyes are sparkling.

And she makes the best food ever.  She spreads the tuna salad between two pieces of Wonder Bread, cuts the sandwiches in fourths, and serves them with potato chips as we sit around the Formica table. They are perfect.

I try to follow Mom’s recipes. But they never taste quite the same or quite as good. And sometimes I get teary.  But everyone knows that chopping onions will do that.