7 Doz. Almond Fingers

My sister is the writer in the family so I’ve used a piece she wrote just a few months after our Mom passed away. Mom even sent me tins of cookies when we lived in Hawaii. When I do my Christmas cookies every year I pack them they way she always did - they just taste better!

Journaling (by my sister) reads
7 Doz. Almond Fingers
The garage cleaning project continues slowly as I go through boxes one at a time. Coming upon one that contained a variety of Christmas tins, I pried open the tops with a familiar kind of anticipation. Of course they will be empty—there won’t be clusters of bite-size cookies placed in cupcake papers and layered to the top--round thumb prints with cherries, spritz with jelly centers, the round white ones with many names (my favorite), bonbons with decorative tops and a nut or cherry surprise in the middle, pecan tarts, and often an experiment from a promising recipe. I opened the last one, red with gold ornaments bearing signs of much use, and felt a sudden rush of her presence strong enough to jolt me into a flow of tears. Rounded layers of foil lay ready to do their work--a white identifying label in her precise hand-writing announcing “7 doz. almond fingers” and with it the flood of stories, smells, and tastes of another life—a life with a mom.

I can see her in the kitchen, the turquoise Pyrex bowls, assorted utensils, butter placed out to soften, a carton of eggs, a worn Betty Crocker cookbook, an assortment of recipe cards. On occasion I’ve helped make them, but mostly I’ve been the recipient of a colorful tin packed with treats to use throughout the holidays.

The prize cookies were present at all the festivities—Christmas eve warranted the highly polished 3-tiered serving tray looking elegant enough to be in a magazine feature; everyday meals finished with a glass platter holding the assortment; and a living-room gathering of friends and family called for an entire tin to make several passes through the room.

These were intense labors of love. I understand that more now--now that so much is filled with her absence. Maybe it’s because I miss her and all those things she just did without fanfare—treats she baked or cooked, things she sewed or knitted, calls she made to check in, cards she sent. Now I gather with friends to make Christmas cookies and realize it’s really a major effort to create multiple kinds and package them for later use. I do it in one friend-filled day in a spacious kitchen; she did it usually alone in a cramped kitchen over many days. I remember phone conversations where she would say she was tired after spending a good chunk of a day on her feet making multiple batches of thumbprints or ginger snaps. Always willing to help after the work was complete, I volunteered to do taste tests and often managed to show up for a little preview sampling. She probably didn’t know how much I appreciated all her effort in making creations in her kitchen for all of us to enjoy—she didn’t know because I didn’t really know.

If you can hear me mom, I loved your cookies! I love that you cared so much—the tins, the precisely shaped foil, the long hours of mixing and baking, cooling and frosting, layering and freezing. I love the identifying label—the one that said “7 doz almond fingers” in your handwriting. I know what it really said—I saw it clearly today. It said “I love you.”

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