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“That’s not how cookies are made!” Eight-year-old Emma declared in a know-it-all tone.

“Yes it is!” snapped Emma’s little six-year-old sister Carly.

“I’ve made lots of cookies before and they all turned out good.” Emma’s voice softened, “but these cookies will be bad.”

Both girls gazed down at the bowl of white mush.

“It’s too soupy, Carly. We need to add more flour.”

Emma went to the counter and grabbed the container of flour that was half-full. She dumped all of the contents into the bowl and stirred vigorously for a minute creating a cloud of dust over the counter. The soupy mixture turned into thick clay. She stuck a large spoon into the mass and it stood straight up.

“Oh boy!” Carly’s eyes grew wide.

Emma’s expression turned to worry. “Mommy is going to be mad! She has been so busy lately. We tried to help her out, but this is a disaster! What did we do wrong?”

Ten-year-old Jeremy walked into the kitchen and observed his younger sisters perched around the bowl. He peered into the bowl of thick goo. “You aren’t going to make cookies with this crap. But I know what to do with it!”

“Bad language, Jeremy. You’ll get in trouble for saying that.”

“They’re not here. Don’t say anything or I’ll tell them about your cookie CRAP!”

Jeremy reached into the bowl and pulled out a gooey handful. “Perfect,” he smiled. He quickly patted together several small balls of the hardened dough. As Jeremy left the kitchen through the back door he said, “Dump the rest in the garbage disposal and clean up.”

Outside, Jeremy placed eight dough balls on the ground and whistled. He heard panting as Taffy, the miniature poodle, ran to the fence separating Jeremy’s yard from “old lady” Golden’s property.
Taffy growled and barked continuously at Jeremy. Jeremy just smirked and began launching dough balls at the dog. The boy’s aim was poor, yet he managed to hit Taffy with pieces that flew off of the dough balls when they hit the ground or the fence. Jeremy laughed at the dog’s confusion. The laughter turned to shock when he saw a highly displeased Mrs. Golden walking briskly towards him.
Jeremy sprinted into the house and past the girls who were bickering about who should clean up the cookie calamity. Just then their mother came through the front door.

“Kids, I’m home,” she called cheerfully. Marta walked into the kitchen and observed the mess. A loud knocking returned her to the front door where she encountered an upset Mrs. Golden.

Marta calmed Mrs. Golden by having Jeremy apologize and then sending him to his room. She thanked Emma and Carly for trying to make the cookies, but told them to next time check with her first.

“We’ll just make another batch,” she remarked as she went to the pantry. “I have my spare bag of flour here.”

Marta brought the bag to the counter and opened it. Marta shrieked and Jeremy ran back into the kitchen.

“Mommy – what are those?” Both girls talked at the same time while looking into the bag.

“Why are there worms in the flour, Mom?” Jeremy added peering over the girls’ shoulders.

At that moment, their dad walked into the house and took his coat off. He was immediately met by his three children talking simultaneously.

“Is your Mother okay?” Sam asked over the children’s voices.

“Quick Daddy, come into the kitchen right now!” Emma shouted.

Sam and the children hurried into the kitchen where they saw Marta standing by the kitchen sink with her right hand covering her face.

“What’s wrong, Honey?” Sam had no idea what was the matter until his eyes focused on the scene.

Bits of dough were scattered on the floor from Jeremy’s dough balls. A large bowl containing a hardened mass of something white sat on the counter. Also on the counter was the large bag of flour. Sam looked inside and squinted. Flour and sugar covered the counter, sink, and floor. Egg shells were scattered about; the sink was filled with sticky dishes.

“How did those worms get in there?” Sam muttered.

“They were in the flour bag I keep in the pantry.”

“How old is that flour? Did we get it from the ancient Romans?” Sam tried to be funny, but the children did not understand their father’s humor and Marta sighed, tears in her eyes.

“I’m not going, Sam. I have to make these cookies!”

“You have to go, Honey. My parents and all of my family are expecting us – all of us. It’s our holiday tradition.”

“I have to clean up this mess, buy new ingredients, including modern flour, and make the cookies. You know it’s my family’s tradition that the Christmas Day host makes special Christmas cookies. My family has been doing this since my great grandmother started ninety-nine years ago. This is the one hundredth year. I cannot let this go! My mother, grandmother, and the rest of my family will be here tomorrow at eleven o’clock. I must have these cookies baked by then. I also need to clean-up and prepare the turkey and dressing – it’s too much!”

“We’ll take care of it early tomorrow or later tonight. We can stop by a store on the way to my parent’s house and pick up what you need.”

“I have a better idea, Sam. Go over to Mrs. Golden’s house and see if we can borrow some flour. We may also need eggs and sugar.”

Marta glanced at Jeremy as she spoke. Jeremy’s face turned as white as the dough. He knew what his Dad’s visit with Mrs. Golden meant.

“If Mrs. Golden comes through with the ingredients, and I promise to help you, will you go to my parent’s house?”

“All right, Sam.” Then Marta added curtly, “At least one family will have a traditional Christmas this year.”

Sam walked over to Mrs. Golden’s house and returned in about fifteen minutes.

“What did Mrs. Golden say, Sam?”

“She will bring over the flour, eggs, and sugar after we leave. I gave her our house key.”

“That’s so nice of her. I think about her often and how she is doing.” Marta stared at Mrs. Golden’s house. It had been a little over a year ago since her husband died. I wanted to have her over many times since then, but life gets so busy, she thought. Marta continued, “We need to invite her to our house for dinner right after the holidays, Sam.”

“I agree.” Sam turned to Jeremy. “Mrs. Golden said you were going to help her with some chores after Christmas. I assume you know what she is talking about? So, that will not be a problem?”

“Sure, Dad, not a problem.” Jeremy started to relax.

“Good, Jeremy. Everyone, we need to leave for Grandma’s and Grandpa’s in half an hour. Time to get ready!”

# # # # #

The drive to Sam’s parent’s house took forty-five minutes and was an easy trip.

Most of the Christmas Eve revelers were there when Sam’s family arrived. Marta fretted throughout the party about the state of her house in anticipation of the many guests expected to come on Christmas Day. And then there was the cookie problem. She couldn’t stand the thought that she might be the one who failed to keep the almost one hundred year tradition going. What would Mother and Grandmother say? Marta thought.

At nine o’clock, Sam said it was time to leave as they wanted to beat Santa Claus home. Sam had not paid attention to the weather and was dismayed to see about six inches of snow covering the ground and more falling when they left.

“Our drive home may take a little longer than coming here,” he remarked to Marta.

Snow squalls continued to pummel the area, and driving became treacherous. About half way home, the car hit a slick point and slid off the road into a bulky mound of snow in a ditch. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

“Great! Just great!” Sam exclaimed as he opened the door to view the damage.

After inspecting the car, Sam said sadly to Marta, “I didn’t notice any damage to the car, but we are really stuck. There’s a diner just across the road. I’ll go there to see if I can get ahold of ‘Triple A’ for a tow… - I’m not optimistic.”

Sam trudged through the snow to the diner. It was open on Christmas Eve and several burly men sat at the counter.

“Do you have a phone I could borrow to call ‘Triple A’,” he asked the waitress. “My cell phone isn’t working and we’re stuck.”

One of the men looked up from his dinner and said matter-of-factly, “You shouldn’t be out tonight. See, we’re in here, inside, waiting for the storm to quit.” The truck driver pointed to the other men.
“Yeah, I know that now, but I’m still stuck off the road over there.” Sam pointed in the direction of his car.

“Not for long. Come on boys!” The man shouted. “Let’s help this buddy out.”

Without complaining, several men put on their winter gear and headed outside. Two men grabbed snow shovels placed by the diner door as they walked to the car.

“You don’t have to do this,” Sam said to the men.

“Yes, we do,” and laughter rippled from the group.

Within minutes they had the car free from the snow bank and resting on the road.

Sam shook his head. “Such kindness and for a stranger,” he murmured to the waitress.

“They are good men, these truckers, who get to spend this Christmas Eve in my diner. They’ll be back on the road once the weather clears,” she answered.

Yes, they are good men. Sam thought for a moment and reached for his wallet. In a secret compartment that he kept for emergencies he pulled out two folded one hundred dollar bills.

“This is for the men’s dinners,” he said. “They deserve it. Anything left over you can keep. Merry Christmas!”

Sam thanked the men and got in the car for the drive home. The storm subsided and the rest of the trip went without incident.

When they arrived home, Sam and Marta ushered three sleepy children into the house. Their parents were wide awake, though, anticipating all the work needed to prepare for Christmas Day.
Sam carried Carly as he herded Jeremy and Emma into their bedrooms and told the children to change for bed.

That is when he heard Marta shout, “Sam! Come in here!”

Sam bolted into the kitchen. What he saw amazed him. The kitchen was spotless and on the counter were several platters of a wide assortment of baked cookies, presented in beautiful patterns. There were sugar cookies cut in shapes of bells, trees, and animals. Several of the cookies had tiny silver balls embedded in the frosting. There were also ginger bread men, gumdrop cookies, molasses cookies with chocolate drops in the middle, and a host of other scrumptious delights.

A note placed on one of the platters read “Welcome Home – Santa Claus.”

Jeremy, Emma and Carly entered the kitchen with puzzled looks. “What happened? Who made these?” They asked. “Santa Claus?”

“No kids, I know who made these cookies and cleaned this kitchen.” Marta smiled with wet eyes.
Marta gazed through the window at the house next door. A light shined in the living room.
Marta walked to Mrs. Golden’s house. Before she left, she added, “We will set an extra place for dinner tomorrow.”

Sam and the children watched her through the bay window. Mrs. Golden opened the door and Marta hugged her.

The trials of the day vanished in the warm embrace of the spirit of Christmas.

Copyright © 2019 Scott D. Prill.  All Rights Reserved.

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