Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Cookie Lady

          My wife has had many titles in her life, most assigned to her, and some engineered by her for her own reasons. “The Peanut Lady” comes to mind as an example: There are three rather large squirrels, several chipmunks, a flock of blue jays and at least one bold rabbit who haunt my back porch pretty much all year round. This is because several years ago my loving wife spotted a chipmunk scouring the landscape for something to eat, and she automatically tossed out some peanuts for him to “find”. She decided to buy more and feed him regularly, and of course the critter couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Soon there were more critters than food, and the whole thing grew into a regular relationship between my “peanut lady” and the wildlife of Willow Wood Village (where we live).

          A similar phenomenon has emerged with cookies: When we first moved into our apartment, (it’s in a large complex of apartments with a whole staff of employees maintaining the property for the landlord) we naturally found small things to be corrected in our townhouse as we settled in. On one of these maintenance visits my wife offered some homemade cookies to the young fellow who was helping us. H e accepted, and raved over the taste of the cookies. shortly thereafter we discovered that crew members were jostling each other for a chance to service OUR place, in hopes of more goodies. And she was flattered enough to see that we usually had a few cookies around for the guys.

          That winter she took a tray of cookies to the office girls when we paid our rent. Soon we were getting calls at home thanking us for the gift, and raving about the many kinds of cookies we’d brought them. I’m sure you can see what’s next. As my wife increased each year’s cookies contribution to the office people, with admonitions to share them with the maintenance crew, her reputation grew and grew. Until this year, when the young woman who first rented us our apartment spotted us coming in with trays held high she literally ran to the desk to greet us. When her co-workers frowned at her enthusiasm, we saw her mouth “Cookie Lady!” and they instantly beamed hellos at us.

          Now all of this is fine. I’m secretly proud to be associated with the cookie lady of our complex, and although she won’t let me sample the wares as she makes the house smell like heaven every day for weeks, I understand what drives her. Fiest, she has come to honestly believe that Christmas and the general feeling of the season would actually suffer without her cookies. The people in the landlord’s employ really do anticipate her yearly gift, as do our kids and grandkids and their friends. (One young girl in South Carolina, when told my granddaughters’ Gram was comming to visit, asked excitedly: “COOKIE GRANDMA???”) Second, she is trying with all her heart to fend off the inevitable time when she can no longer put smiles on the faces of those she loves. I see her limp her way into the kitchen, muttering unprintable things on her way to take a tray out of the oven and replace it with another. The psoriatic arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy, and frankly years of use are beginning to take their toll on muscles and joints and nerve endings that just never seemed to care before.

          Whether justified or self-deluded, she has come to believe that supplying peanuts to her “critters” and cookies to those around her is an almost sacred obligation, not a choice. “How can I disappoint the kids?”  “Where will the chippies and squirrells eat?” “What kind of christmas will the office girls have if I don’t brighten their day?” These are things she actually asks herself. And I know in my heart that while none would die, or be emotionally scarred, if she was not able to provide, they really WOULD feel the loss in a substantial way. I love my cookie lady more than I know how to say. And I know it will break my heart as much as it will hers the day she can no longer bake the cookies and show her love.

Christmas Cards and Post Cards

       I can remember my father sitting down at the desk in our home on E. 13th St. in Erie, back in the days when telephones were heavy, black, and had rotary dials, and writing out the Christmas cards for that year. The important things to remember here are that this was the only family related function he ever chose to engage in ( except, of course, the administering of punishments – which he relished entirely too much), and he did it only because some internal sense of propriety told him that only a card signed by the householder himself had any value or meaning. The irony, here, is that by the mid-fifties (uh…nineteen fifties) Christmas cards had become sort of the emojis of the communication of the time.

          You see, hand written or typed letters were the equivalent of today’s emails. Anything the writer held to be of importance was committed to paper and sent off through the post to be delivered in meer days to the intended reader. They contained no advertisements and were generally considered to be important communications because the sender had invested 3 (and later 4 or 5) cents in postage to ensure his reader received the message.

          Post cards, on the other hand, while being at once more personal and direct, were very much the modern day text messages we all send with an almost diuretic frequency. I remember being totally awed by a post card my mom received from a neighbor who was lucky enough to be vacationing in Washington D.C.! Imagine! The card was a picture or trees (cherry trees) in full bloom in front of a view of the Washington monument (Washington the President, I was told, not the City). I quick note of some of the sights they’d seen was written on the back, along with a personal “hi” to all of us. I remember being astounded that anyone having so great an experience would take the time to”dash off” a note to a friend in the middle of all that fun! Of course the unwritten “look at ME!” would not have been lost on my parents.

          And if these quick, simple greetings, these “hellos” from far away were texts, the Christmas card could only serve as an emoji: a simple symbol of a commonly felt emotion or impression we’ve all felt and recognize. “I wish you the Joy and Warmth of the season”. “Merry Christmas from my home to yours”. “May you feel the Wonder of the Birth of Christ”. Etc.  These trite sounding greetings seem canned and insincere, but they are actually direct  reminder of the season, and actually quite sweet and effective if only you take them as intended. Where once my father ticked off the names of people who sent cards in return, scratching out any who did NOT send a card, we now (I hope) simply send cards to those who mean something to us. Personally. We send the a smile and a heartfelt blessing because we want to, and we want them to feel the same childlike delight and blessing that we feel in sending our christmas smiley face.

          But when all is said and done, I must admit I miss the postcard days. Think how much more personal a Christmas post card would be, with it’s short private missive on the back and the Santa or Snowy scene or Mother and child on the front. It would be the same reminder, the same greeting, but it would also have that suggestion that I picked this for you because I was actually thinking of you in the middle of all this fun! I think that if they still made Christmas oriented post cards (and if the USPS actually humbled itself to deliver post cards) I would start using them again. (or, to be honest, I’d ask my wife to use them, since without a keyboard my handwriting is unreadable – even to me.)

           Have a Happy and Blessed Christmas.

Vince Katarzynski