I need to tell you something about these cookies.
The week of Halloween this year, I made my very first attempt at from-scratch (down to the icing) cutout sugar cookies. I meticulously researched the best recipes via Pinterest and was trying desperately to re-create these sugar cookies my mom made when I was around six years old for Halloween one year. Yes, they were that mind-blowing that I could still vividly remember them 25 years later.
Anyway, I made them one night when my husband took the kids to his parents. They were, to put it delicately, a BITCH. They ate up my entire night and I was in a constant state of stress about them. I vowed to never do them again. Until I ate one. And then my husband did. And he looked at me and said “Do you think you could make these again this weekend?”
Yes, they were perfection. I was excited to make them again for Christmas (because that’s how long of a break I needed. Like I said, they were a BITCH). I was so looking forward to starting a holiday tradition, letting Gia help frost and decorate and make delicious memories. The day I planned to make them was the day we ended up in the ER with Eli. Needless to say, those cookies didn’t get made.
So I made a plan B. So Christmas fell through, ok, that was a bummer. But we still had Valentine’s Day. I planned on making them every weekend for the past 4 weeks. And every single day I planned there was a new catastrophe. Week one: Strep throat, Gia and Eli. Week two: Strep throat, me. Week three: Gia spikes a 103 fever, cough, and sore throat. Week four: Eli hospitalized with RSV. Yeah. One of those months.
So last night was the last chance. I was grumpy and haven’t been feeling especially good, and am in general, completely burnt out on life lately (see: every week since Christmas). Will got home later than usual from work, Eli is teething, I burnt dinner. Bedtime was only 20 minutes away but I decided IM GOING TO MAKE THESE GODDAMN SUGAR COOKIES IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO.
So I got started. Problem number 1: vanilla extract. I shook the bottle and discovered just the tiniest trace left. Probably not enough. Problem number 2: flour. I needed 3 cups. It looked like we had about 2. Problem number 3: all the measuring cups and spoons were in the dishwasher at that exact moment except for the 1 cup and ½ tsp. BUT DAMNIT, I’M MAKING THESE COOKIES. I meticulously measured out the flour and it turned out we had, to the freaking tablespoon, just enough. I moved forward with my plan. The butter wasn’t room temp and I didn’t have time. As I mixed the ingredients (just sort of guessing on measurements because of the whole measuring cup debacle), I measured out the vanilla extract. Nope, folks, definitely did NOT have enough. I kept going. When I mixed in the dry ingredients, I became more and more concerned as I noticed the dough was completely dry and not held together in the slightest. There was no way rolling it out was going to help. That’s when I realized I forgot the egg, supposed to be added way back with the wet ingredients. I added it right into the dry and realized that I needed FREAKING VANILLA for the frosting. Which I did NOT have. The cookies didn’t seem to cook – I kept adding minutes upon minutes and they still seemed completely liquid. Even after allowing them to cool on the baking sheet I could barely transfer them without them disintegrating.
I desperately wanted to recreate the magic of the Halloween cookies, which meant following the exact recipe to a T. I desperately wanted to give my husband and children something good and delicious and homemade to bring them joy. I was totally and completely overcompensating for a crappy Christmas, horrible January, and pretty rough February. These cookies were all I had control over and I was majorly fucking it up.
I saw Will whispering to Gia before she trotted over to me in the kitchen: “You’re doing a really good job, mommy. I’m proud of you for trying. We love you!” I held back a few choke-y tears that were forming in my eyes and throat. I couldn’t even look at Will.
Then I took a bite. Expecting the worse. Everything I had done had led me to believe these would be basically inedible.
They. Were. Perfection.
They were the best thing I have ever made.
Like, hands down.
Even better than Halloween.
Today my mom brought over a new bottle of vanilla extract, I made the frosting and decorated the cookies. It all worked out. Actually, it was better than I could have imagined, even though I never could have seen that last night while I was mid-cookie making. Then all I saw was doom and gloom and disappointment. All I saw was where I was fucking up, where things were falling apart. I had no idea things were coming together even better than I could have ever expected.
Life metaphor, obviously. I mean, on a silver platter, basically.
I remember in my teens and early adulthood having rough Valentine’s Days. I always wanted the huge, dramatic, extravagant love, gifts, recognition. I wanted people to notice how much I was loved. I wanted to feel more special than everyone else. Nothing any guy did was really enough for me. Before I was engaged there was always this pressure – DO I GET A DIAMOND RING TODAY OR WHAT?? And half of me would say “Oh my god that would be so lame, engaged on the most cliché day of the year…” while the other half of me was devastated when there was no diamond on my finger come February 15th.
Some years I got the big, extravagant gifts and recognition – and let me tell you a secret. Some of those years were pretty damn terrible. I was pretty miserable deep down, though nobody could have possibly guessed it from the outside looking in.
Something changed when I grew up, got married, had babies. Will and I stopped exchanging gifts the year Gia was born, and that has actually been the best gift ever. There will be years coming where we have the extra money, the extra time, the extra energy to spoil each other with gifts again, but that’s not the season we are in right now. He is out of town today working his ass off to pay for the time he has spent helping me care for our babies, for the time he has lost work because he was in the hospital by my side through it all. He is working so we can afford for me to work less, so I can stay home and be with our babies every day. Last night he bought me my very favorite steak from a local market and he is cooking it for me tonight. Its not big and extravagant, and nobody is going to notice how much I am loved except for me.
Its better than anything 20-year-old Ashley could have ever imagined, even if it doesn’t look like it through her 20-year-old eyes.