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May 3, 2013

I was baking cookies…some for the grandkids and some for my husband Jim.

I’d chosen peanut butter. The kids liked them, but Jim loves them. Especially if they turn out soft and chewy…made with real butter instead of shortening and very lightly browned. Almost under-cooked…not quite doughy in the middle. Made with creamy peanut butter…never chunky. According to him, chunky peanut butter is just plain nasty and ruins everything it touches. So we don’t keep it in our cupboard.

That’s Jim’s idea of peanut butter cookie heaven. In fact, the first bit of advice his mother gave me had to do with cookies…

I began reflecting on the first time I met her…and the rest of his family.

We’d made the five and a half hour drive to visit them. I was understandably nervous…I was about to meet his family for the first time.

I’m not sure what I expected, but it certainly wasn’t a reception by the entire family. All at once. I thought that we’d go to visit them a few at a time, in their homes But noooo…they were all here, at mom and dad’s, waiting for us to arrive.

His brother was there with his boy. Sister, brother-in-law and both sons were present. A nephew was there with his wife and three kids. Everyone was there.

I wanted to run…to hide. But I couldn’t. I was so far from home. I felt trapped.

Jim made the introductions and we casually moved into the house. I began to relax…this wasn’t so bad, I thought These were nice people; they welcomed us into their home, I told myself.

We gathered around the kitchen table and began to talk…getting to know each other. They asked about my family…were my parents still alive? How many siblings did I have? That kind of thing. Then, the conversation took a turn I didn’t see coming…

They began speaking a foreign language…Polish. The six of them, Jim included, were deep in conversation. Polish conversation. I didn’t understand a single word they were saying.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sat there, my fingers nervously fidgeting in my lap. Feeling like I was the Mona Lisa and they were art critics, studying every aspect of my being. Critiquing me.

His sister stole a glance at me, patted her hair, and said something to her mother who nodded curtly, responding with something that I hoped was complimentary. But I’d never know…

Jim moved closer to me…gently laying his hand on my shoulder, letting me know he was there for me and that it would be okay. It helped a little…but try as he might, he couldn’t convince his family to speak English.

After a while, his mother, a raw boned, rather severe looking woman, announced, in English, that she had some advice for me… ‘Hmmm,’ she said, ‘there is vun thing about Jimmy you should know…‘ she said, her speech heavy with Polish influence.

Oh, no, I thought to myself…what’s this all about. She looked intense. What dirty little secret about her oldest son would she share with me? And…worse yet, what secrets did she know about him? He hadn’t lived under her roof for over twenty years.

‘You vill do the laundry…yes?’

‘Yes, most of the time, anyway.’ I replied, wondering what laundry had to do with anything. In my experience, older women’s marital advice was usually ‘never go to bed angry,’ or something to that effect.

Obviously, that wasn’t the advice she was preparing to impart.

‘You vill check hiss pockets before you put hiss pants in the vashing machine?’ She said.

Where was she going with this, I wondered. ‘Well, yes…’

She leaned across the table and gently placed her warm hand over mine. ‘Gut. Sehr gut,’ she said as she smiled approvingly. Her features softened and she began to look more grandmotherly. Apparently, Polish and German are similar languages…I recognized her simple phrase…I taken two years of German in high school, and a still remembered some of the easier words.

Now it was my turn to question. ‘Why?‘ I asked.

She chuckled. ‘Because he hides cookies in hiss pockets and they leave a stain if you don’t take them out before you vash them.’

One look at my husband-to-be confirmed his mother’s claim. ‘Umm…yeah…I’ve been known to stash a few in my pockets,’ he confessed, looking somewhat embarrassed.

I assured her that I would carefully check his pockets before I washed clothes.

She gave my hand a gentle squeeze and murmured ‘Gut Girl.’

An idea formed as I took the last of the cookies from the oven; the house was filled with the warm fragrance.

I glanced in the living room. Jim had fallen asleep in his Lazy Boy with the TV tuned to an old re-run of Cheers.

I took a cookie from the cooling rack and tip-toed to his side. Carefully, I leaned in, holding the fresh cookie under his nose as he slept.

I could feel his breath on my fingers.

He breathed in once…twice…three times before his eyes fluttered open.

Upon seeing his favorite cookie, he gave me a sleepy smile, and relieved me of the treat, saving the last little bite for the dog who, upon discovering that he had food, took up residence on his lap.

  1. Greg Frosig permalink

    Another enjoyable story!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. permalink

    A great story! (But chunky PB is really the way to go!)


    P.S. The Synod Assembly is really worthwhile!

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