My dad loves burnt Christmas cookies. Every year, for as long as I can remember, he has gushed
over them. I figured he was just being too polite to take the good ones. You know, sacrificing for the family and all that?
But, no. He said that's the way his mother always made them. "Growing up, she never claimed to be a cook. She loved the outdoors and didn't want to be in the kitchen ."
My dad, being a poor kid on a Kansas farm, seldom got cookies of any kind, so even burnt ones tasted delectable to him.
Years later, married to my mom, Daddy would eagerly wait for her and us four girls to pick the choicest cookies--the golden brown ones. He zoomed right in on the dark, dark brown treats and smiled like a nine-year-old boy stuffing his mouth with sugar.
As an adult, late December found me baking ginger snaps and chocolate chip cookies, taking out most, and then standing there waiting for the rest to burn. Can you imagine? Every year I would tell the kids, "Don't eat the burnt cookies! I'm saving them for Pappaw!"
I'll never forget the first year I decided to forego this tradition. I talked myself into believing that surely--after all these years--he would have gotten used to the finer baking of Mama and his girls.
Christmas Day came, and Daddy opened shirts from us (he gushed) socks from the kids (he gushed more) and a KU ring from Mama (he gushed and gushed and gushed). Strangely, though, he seemed extra quiet when all the gift-giving was over. That wasn't like him.
A few days later I asked Mama if he was okay or troubled.
"He's okay," she assured me. "But he did tell me how much he missed getting burnt cookies from you."
Lesson learned? Never underestimate the value of giving a nostalgic gift to an old person.