The Good Old Days
January 2, 2007
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Listened Sunday, too, New Year's Eve, and sang "Auld Lang Syne" along with Mr. Keillor and all those people. I'll confess I got a bit teary-eyed there in the kitchen at midnight. Something about all those people singing the same words, each of them remembering way back when. The Good Old Days.
That was New Year's Eve. New Year's Day was another story. It was the kids' last day of vacation, and we were in need of groceries, so I climbed into the car and headed out over fresh snow to the grocery store. It was a good four hours later when I pulled into the garage and gave a honk. Everyone came running and helped unload while I went in and began putting things in their place. After looking at food all day, the last thing I wanted to do was cook, so we ordered out and the pizza arrived just after 6:00, and we sat around the kitchen table and had what has become The Annual Christmas Review. We took turns telling what the best thing was about this Christmas, and what one thing we'd change if we could change one thing.
The kids interrupted each other with, "The water park was the best" and "I liked riding home from Grandma's at night" and "The ham. Definitely the ham." They all agreed that the one change would be a longer vacation. Mr. Sundberg said watching the kids open gifts was his favorite time, and that he'd change only the amount of snow and there would be big, deep drifts up against the house like it was when he was a kid.
I had a hard time coming up with something. As I get older, it feels like I miss long stretches of Christmas. It's difficult to hold on to with all the running around and wrapping and baking and letter writing and church goings-on and so on. Not like the kids, who eat, sleep, and breathe the season. They inhabit it, and carry it with them into the New Year. I was like that once. The year the car stalled on the two-block drive home from church, just long enough for Santa to fill our living room with presents. And the year my brother and I lay awake all night in the guest bedroom listening for bells. I imagine my mother still has those Christmas pins I bought for her at the hardware store a few years in a row. And there was the bottle upon bottle of Old Spice aftershave I'd wrap carefully for my father.
Now that I think about it, my favorite thing has always been tucking in the kids on Christmas Eve. They're older now, but that light is still there in their eyes. I remember it well, and feel it flicker in my own now and then. Childhood was such a lovely time.
If I were one to hoard recipes, I'd lock this one away. It's my mother's recipe, and some of the best homemade cookies on the planet. Please consider this one my gift to you (I wanted to send along Whitman's Samplers but the postage would have been outrageous), along with many wishes for both giddiness and peace to find you time and again in this New Year.
The Sugar Cookie
1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix.
Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Chill dough for 3 hours or so.
Roll out, as thin or thick as you wish; cut with festive cookie cutters.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 375 for ten minutes.
Frost with powdered sugar frosting.
(I add about 1T melted butter and 1/4 c. warm milk and a dribble or two of almond extract to a bowl of powdered sugar, and keep adding milk until it feels right.)
Recipe doubles easily. I'd recommend substituting almond extract for the vanilla.