I never thought my peanut butter cookies were especially memorable.
Yet when I caught up with Ellie, the little girl I used to babysit – now grown and married – she told me that she still remembered those cookies.
When Ellie and her family moved in across the street, I was a typical teenager who wanted the things most teen girls want – cosmetics, candy bars, the latest issue of Tiger Beat magazine, and CDs (iPods hadn’t been invented yet). I owned a used Camero that frequently needed gas, or tires, or new speakers. (Hey, tunes were important; they had to sound good. Especially in the car.)
I always needed extra money. Babysitting was the perfect solution.
Ellie’s parents both worked, and her brothers were grown and gone; she was a late arrival to the party. A surprise. At nine years old, Ellie was… high-spirited, to say the least. One day she locked her mother out of the house and made faces from the window as her mom banged away on the front door. (Needless to say, Ellie paid the price once mom finally got in the house. But she told me later it was still worth it.)
My mother said Ellie was an unmitigated brat. But I knew she was just a lonely kid who didn’t get nearly enough attention at home.
She was smart, and so she could be very trying at times. (‘Why?’ and ‘I don’t have to, just because you say so’ were her favorite phrases.) But despite that, we got along reasonably well most of the time. We were kindred spirits.
We didn’t do anything exciting when I came over; we played board games like Monopoly or Parcheesi or checkers (if she didn’t win, she’d declare the game ‘stupid’ and turn the board over) or we watched television, or we dressed up in feather boas and tiaras, or on rainy days, we baked cookies. Peanut butter cookies were the only kind I could make.
After the dough was mixed and dropped onto the cookie sheets, I showed Ellie how to press the tines of a fork into the tops to make a crisscross pattern on each cookie. She loved doing that; it was “her part” to do every time we made cookies. Then, of course, came the even better part – eating those warm, crumbly cookies straight out of the oven until our poor stomachs begged for mercy.
Years later, in her final year of college, Ellie told me that she never forgot those afternoons with me, baking peanut butter cookies. And she admitted she thought my old blue Camero was “cool.” She wanted one just like it when she grew up. (She ended up driving her dad’s ancient diesel Mercedes off to college instead. Such is life.)
When my youngest son was small, he was obsessed, not with peanut butter cookies or feather boas, but with GI Joe action figures. He recently told me his best memories are of the two of us hunting for GI Joes in every drug store, toy store, junk shop, and flea market known to man. The scores! The rare finds! The big slice of greasy cheese pizza afterwards!
It’s clichéd, but true – it’s the little things that matter most. The memories we build with our kids and grandkids now are the things they’ll remember later, long after the toys and video games and bicycles are gone.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start making some memories. (By the way…I have a great, Ellie-approved recipe for peanut butter cookies, if you’re interested…)