The Great Cookie Dough Heist

LeeAnnRubsam.com

It was a kinder, gentler world back then – a time when salmonella did not rule the bird population, and children could still eat raw cookie dough even if it did have eggs in it. My mother used an old family recipe to make the most wonderful cutout sugar cookies, and Christmas would not have been complete without them. Their one drawback was the two-step process involved – make the dough one day and roll them out and bake them on another.

Mom worked long hours as a bookkeeper at a local gas station, yet she always managed to find time to play board games with us kids, take us wherever we needed to go, and bake goodies for the family. But it didn’t usually happen just when we were panting and breathing for it. It was that way with the Christmas cookies, one year. We made the dough one Saturday, and waited on the baking until the following Saturday. It was more than a little girl could bear.

“Mom, can we make the cookies tonight?” Dead-tired Mom didn’t want to think about it, so night after night the answer was the same. The project must wait until Saturday, which seemed at least a decade away.

Sinister crimes are usually perpetrated in dark places, and this one was no different. The cookie dough, stored deep in the farthest corner of the basement refrigerator, pleaded loudly in my ears, “Eat me! Please, come eat me!”

I answered the call. It was just a tiny sampling at first. No one would have even noticed, especially after I pinched the dough together so the finger marks wouldn’t show. I swore that first dough-snitching episode would be my last, but day after day, evening after evening, the dough continued calling. I could hear it while watching TV, while reading a book, while trying to sleep: “Eat me. Please, come eat me!” And I succumbed, again and again.

A little taste here and a little taste there, and by Thursday night, a horrible truth had dawned: when Mom went to bake those cookies on Saturday, the whole family would know that someone had been stealing the goods. There was only enough left for about three cookies. I had vaguely observed a gradual dwindling of the mound, but kept telling myself it was not very noticeable, until it became so obvious that even I could not live in denial anymore.

What could I do? It was too cold outside to run away and live with the hobos.  Grandma wouldn’t protect me.  She lived with us, and would be mad like the rest of them that there were no Christmas cookies to be had.  I could frame my younger brother. I knew he had sampled once or twice, but he would hotly deny any part in the crime, and besides, my honest face always managed to tell the truth when my lips did not.

There was only one solution: when the day of reckoning came, I would have to own up to my heinous deed and face the music. In the meantime, I might as well enjoy my sin, since I was going to have to pay for it anyway. I ate the rest of that cookie dough. All that remained were finger trails up the sides of the bowl.

Saturday morning I awoke with dread in my heart. I stayed in bed extra long, covers over my head, listening for sounds of impending doom from beneath me. I heard my mother’s footsteps on the basement stairs, the opening of the refrigerator door, the pounding up the stairs again, the seconds of silence before the storm.  And then it blew.

“Lee Ann! Gary! Get down here!” I crawled out of bed and sidled on down to the kitchen, guilt written all over my miserable face. “Who ate all the cookie dough???!!!”

“I did, I guess – but I think Gary helped some.”

“Not much. I only did it once,” my brother defended himself.

Mom did not morph into the ogre that I had expected. She was really annoyed, but after recovering from the initial shock, the novelty of one small girl eating an entire batch of cookie dough on the sneak without being discovered until the last scoop was gone hit her as being a tad funny. She didn’t tie me to any bedposts, lock me in the closet for a week, or put me on a diet of moldy bread and  pond water for the next thirty days, as my young imagination had supposed would be fitting punishments.  She didn’t ban me from eating Christmas cookies for the rest of my life, either. Her lip twitched slightly, as she tried to hide the eventual smile.

“I guess we will have to make a new batch. This time maybe we’d better not wait another whole week before we get around to baking them.”

Moms are wise beings. They learn from their mistakes the first time around. I think I did, too. Not so much as a smidgeon prematurely departed from that cookie dough bowl in the interval before the next baking day.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

Ornesta’s Christmas

leeannrubsam.com

I love fan mail.  It’s encouraging to hear that other people can relate to my experiences. 

Ornesta Fruggenbotham, of Iron Ore, Michigan, wrote: “I see that you didn’t post any bizarre Christmas stories — again!  Don’t you have any to tell?  Do you want to hear mine?”

“Sure, Ornesta.  I’d love to,” was my prompt reply.  “It’s not that my extended relatives can’t produce plenty of fodder for a good yarn.  But they’d all get awful mad at me if I told on them.  If you’re not afraid to tell on yours, let’s go for it!” 

Y’all might remember Ornesta.  She did a guest appearance in this blog months back, with the story of searching her (not-dead) brother’s house for his corpse.  You can read about it at Hold the Hysteria, Mom!   (Not to worry, home school mother reading this blog to your kiddies for your cultural studies class.  We’re totally family-friendly here.  The tale is bizarre, but not scary.  It will give you a keen insider look at what life is like in Upper Michigan.) 

So, here’s Ornesta’s Christmas memory from yesteryear.  Once again, it’s an “as told to” piece, so if it sounds like my style, it’s because I polished it up for her.  Remember, these are Ornesta’s relatives, not mine

************ 

The four of us got to Mom’s place on Christmas at the traditional 4:00 p.m. and were surprised to find the house already full of all the bodies that normally show up an hour late — plus some fresh ones we’d never seen before.  Apparently Mom had either sprouted a new crop of relatives, or else she had invited a homeless cowboy and his wife home from the grocery store.  

We brought the buns, but everyone had already eaten without us.  Maybe the buns hadn’t been necessary.  Apparently we hadn’t been necessary either.  I steered Mom off into a corner of the kitchen for a private word.  

“Mom!  Who are these people, why are we the last ones here, and why did everyone eat without us?” 

“They’re your brother Sid’s in-laws.  They dropped in unexpectedly, and they decided we should have Christmas at 1:30 instead of 4:00.” 

“Let me get this straight.  Sid’s in-laws drop in unexpectedly, invite themselves to your house, and tell you when to have your Christmas celebration.  Am I smelling the aroma of a  control freak?” 

“I couldn’t refuse to let them in.  They dogsledded all the way from Hibbing across Lake Superior to get here.  Besides, they brought three crock pots full of weenies and beans, Swedish meatballs, and pork hocks drowning in sauerkraut.” 

“I would have had a hard time refusing the Swedish meatballs myself, Mom, but the beanie-weenies and the pork hocks aren’t worth it.  And it’s only December.  The lake doesn’t freeze over solid until January.  I’d ask to see the dogsled before I’d believe that one.  And how come everyone else knew about the time change except us?” 

“I got so flustered I forgot to call you.”  Mom sniffled into her potholder, and it dawned on me that the pork hocks and weenies weren’t adequately compensating for the sudden change in plans after all. 

We made our belated salutations and introductions as best we could.  The cowboy and his wife were quite cordial, and invited us to sit down and make ourselves at home.  There was not a square inch left to fit ourselves into, what with the space they and their Christmas presents occupied, so we graciously declined. 

“That’s all right, we’ll just go sit in the bedroom and eat.  Call us when it’s time to open the gifts.”  

Life was about as delightful as it could get, sitting at our card table in the spare room.  The situation would have made an effective ad for a buffet restaurant: 

“Grandma’s home-cooked ham and potatoes, PLUS three other kinds of meat, including our world famous Minnesota pork hocks, all served in your own elegant private dining room next to the clothes hamper.” 

The food was lukewarm, but the conversation was plenty hot enough.

Having stuffed the intruders’ delicacies, along with our lacerated emotions, into our innards, we rejoined the family circle.  They must be into line dancing or the rodeo, I decided, based on the boots, fringe shirts, and the guy’s flowing mustache.  But if they yodel, I will know it is just an obsession with Roy Rogers or Gene Autry.

I observed that Sid’s father-in-law was remarkably well preserved.  He looked younger than Sid.  It turns out he was.  Mother-in-law, cuddling up to hubby, announced proudly that she had robbed the cradle the second time around.  Father-in-law grinned sheepishly, looking way too handsome for his own good.  I wondered what had attracted him to his adoring old feedbag.  Must have been SOME horse she was riding when they first laid eyes on each other.  Either that or the line dancing had gone to his head. 

Mother-in-law decided to win over my teenager with charming conversation.  “So you’re Ellen!  I’ve heard so much about you!  Stand up, honey. … Five-nine.”

Ellen’s eyes popped.  “Excuse me, ma’am?” 

“You’re five-foot nine.” 

“I’m five-seven … and a quarter.”  Ellen is very sensitive about her height, partly because all the boys in Iron Ore come on the short side.  The severe winters stunt their growth, but our family genes must be dominant over the weather. 

“No, don’t argue.  You’re five-nine.  My other daughter is five-nine, and I’d know.  You’re the same height as she is.  Take off your shoes.  … Yep, still five-nine.” 

We endured through a couple more hours of Christmas pleasantries before escaping.  Ellen obsessed about her height all the way home, whenever she could get a word in edgewise between my snorts over the ham hocks we had just been visiting with — not the ones in the crock pot, either. 

“Ellen, just because the rodeo queen said you are five-nine does not make you five-nine.  You haven’t grown a millimeter in four years.  She may be controlling, but she’s not THAT good.”

She was unconvinced.  We had to haul out the yardstick and measure her when we got home, to set her mind at ease.

************ 

I was confused by the time I finished putting Ornesta’s story together, so I asked, “Ornesta, I thought that in the other story Sid lived all alone.  What happened to the wife?” 

“Oh, I forgot to tell you that part.  She was so happy to see her mama and step-daddy that she decided she couldn’t live without them anymore.  She hopped the dogsled home with them and never came back.  For all I know, they all fell through the ice somewhere on Lake Superior.”

(For more Ornesta-related adventures see Simply Ornesta! in the sidebar, under Archives.)

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