GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Once upon a time in Milwaukee, there lived a woman surrounded by cookie monsters.
Her husband and their sons were the cookie monsters.
When they could – when she wasn’t looking – they devoured Christmas cookies right off the pan before they cooled.
There was only one way for the woman to bake enough Christmas cookies to make it through Christmas Day – by the dozen and dozen and dozen and dozen.
It seemed like she made a thousand batches.
“Evie, why are you making so many cookies?” my father would ask.
“Because of you and those chow-hound sons of yours,” she would snap but not really mean meanness. Her “anger” was as real as Santa.
I heard her “snapping” because I was there, helping, as it were.
“Can I lick the spoon?” I’d plea.
“May I lick… And I guess so, but just this once.”
Once. Ya, right.
Nary a spoon would go unlicked among all those dozens of mixing bowls for dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies.
There was only one exception in the licking. My brother, Ray, had the bad luck of having his birthday on Dec. 21, and he got dibs on licking the spoon for the special cheese cake my mother made for him every year. It was his consolation prize.
My other brothers were already staking out the cache of cookies in the attic – tin after tin stacked like Mount Everest.
The attic also held bookcases loaded as many tasty titles as my mother made cookies.
My brother Charles was an especially voracious reader. He’d get into a zone and go deaf as he read, oblivious of the world or raised voices.
“Chuck, supper!” “Chuckie.” “Chuck!” “CHUCK!” “Charles!” “CHARLES JOHN GERDS! SUPPER!”
It was when my mother got to his full name that got to go kick him out of his reverie.
When Charles would raid a cookie tin or two in the attic, he’d hang around a bit and read a book. Munch and read.
I remember the time my oldest brother Quinton was the next person to pick up a book that Charles read in late December. Quinton was reading in the living room and putting cookie crumbs from his lap into his mouth with a damp fore finger. My father saw what was happening and knew. He slyly asked, “How’s the book?”
“Crummy,” Quinton said.
Right next to the attic was my bedroom – knotty pine with a cedar closet – made by my father in a sensational act of carpentry.
I was under orders to keep out of the attic and not snitch any Christmas cookies.
There might as well have been a sign on the attic door: TEMPTATION.
I’d tiptoe in stocking feet.
I’d hold my breath and ssslooowwwlllyyy open the door.
Opening the tin containers was a hard part – not to make a shushing sound or drop the lid. JEEPERS! I’d be a goner then.
I tried not to be obvious, not taking too many cookies out of each tin. But some tins seemed to mysteriously have gotten low (the other cookie monsters).
There was no light in the attic, so these deeds often were done only with light from the hall.
My mother never caught on to all the snitching.
Ya, right. She just never said anything about anything missing from her blessed stash.
Peanut butter – my favorite.
Oatmeal with raisins.
Meringue – my other favorite.
Anise – my other favorite.
We decorated only one batch of cookies. “Waste of time,” my other would say. “Gotta make more batches without that fuss.”
All the better for the cookie monsters, who were large. My father was 6-foot-3 – more than tall for his time. The brothers were 6-6, 6-5, 6-2 and 6-1. There were no leftovers in the house with five cookie monsters.
For the anise cookies, my mother had wooden forms to press the dough in. These cookies cooled to the texture of square stones. Once, my father chipped a tooth out of his dentures – a front one, naturally. This cookie monster roared. ARRRAGGGAAAHHH! He looked more like a Halloween pumpkin than a Christmas host that year, but he smiled anyway.
Another year – somewhere in the thick of another thousand batches of Christmas cookies – my father said, “Evie, you are making enough cookies to pave the way from Milwaukee to Green Bay.”
Funny thing is, I took that road to Green Bay, not knowing one day I would have the chance to write this.
Merry Christmas, and have a cookie.