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Truck Cookies and Piles of Worms

“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe, aren’t even aware of.” ELLEN GOODMAN

“I’m putting a truck on mine,” proclaimed my eight-year-old.

“That’s a great idea!” I said.

Dump trucks are not ordinarily parked on holiday cookies, but expressing oneself is an important part of growing up. Besides, we only had this short afternoon to form life-long  memories, so let the merry making begin.

“Don’t spread that out, Mom.  It’s supposed to be the lights,” ordered my five-year-old, as he licked green icing off his fingers.  Against my better judgment, I set aside a cookie with long, thin tubes, which looked more like a pile of worms. The time passed quickly as we added final touches from an assortment of sprinkles, gummies, and peppermint candies. We had lost my father not that many months ago, and my mother was finally smiling and laughing at her grandsons.

Pushing the cookies to one side, the next task came in the form of decorating a house. Our family ritual does NOT involve the aroma of gingerbread baking in the oven while adorable faces mix home-made icing and sort colored gumballs. Our project comes in a kit.

The finished work of brilliance is inedible and lopsided, and the precious hours spent with my boys and my mother still burn in my memory. How do I know these short and messy sessions are important to my kids? When the boys were little, as soon as the school break is upon us, I am bombarded with eager questions.

“Can we decorate cookies this year, Mom?”

“Yes, we can.”

“Can I use ONLY green icing?”

“You can use any color you want.”

“Can we make the house, too?”


Today I have grown young men, and on occasion they mention the house we decorated with their NeNe, who’s been gone ten years now. At the time it seemed like such an insignificant afternoon. Only a few hours, but our boys remember. Another tradition that  NeNe, my mother, Peggy, made were these meringue cookies every year. The first bite always reminds me of Christmas.


2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. To prevent burning, bake on an air cushion baking sheet or line a regular cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla until very firm. Gradually add sugar and mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls on pan. Bake 300 degrees for 25 minutes. They should only be lightly browned when done.

Dear faces missing from the table. Traditions lost and some re-imagined. Let the merry making begin–again. Merry Christmas!

Attending Christmas Open House, held the first weekend every December at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas, is a great family tradition.