Cookie Conundrum

Mama is on a mission to find the best chocolate chip cookie, and Michelle is her unwitting accomplice. Can she make them the same way—per Mama’s instructions—using the same ingredients, and have them come out different? No. Today was cookie day, and Mama isn’t happy with the outcome.

“What was wrong this time?” I ask when I come to the kitchen to start dinner and she launches into her complaints. I’m determined to let her get it out without getting involved, and without mentioning there are two bags of cookies in the freezer and why did she need more anyway.

“They were too sweet!” she exclaims, like I should have known.

“They are cookies,” I say lightly. She ignores my comment.

“I told Michelle to use a teaspoon less sugar, but she doesn’t listen to instructions.”

“A teaspoon isn’t enough to make a difference,” I say, filling two pots with water for two kinds of pasta and putting them on the stove to boil. “If the recipe calls for half a cup of white sugar and half a cup of brown sugar, leave out all the white.” So much for not getting involved.

“Maybe you should make me cookies,” she snips, the since you know so much implied in her tone.

“Not a chance,” I say. She isn’t going to rob me of cookie-baking joy by hovering over me and then complaining about the outcome.

“I want Tollhouse cookies,” she says, pulling the brand name recipe out of her memory bank where everything is better than real life.

“Then use the Tollhouse recipe!” I say a little louder than necessary. I’m getting testy. I should drop it. I get the angel hair pasta out of the drawer for her and the penne for me. Angel hair is the only pasta she will eat, except when she won’t, and I didn’t get pre-approval.

“Maybe it was the chocolate chips,” she muses. “I like other kinds better than Ghirardelli.”

I take a deep breath. “Then stop putting Ghirardelli on your grocery list.” I’m going to lose my mind. I open my mouth to tell her that taste is one of the first things to go when the brain gets old, then clamp my lips shut. She is no longer interested in information, at least from me. Nothing will move her off her conviction that someone has failed her; arguing truth or rationality is futile, as is suggesting that something, though different from her memory, might still be delightful.

“What are you cooking for dinner?” she asks, as I drop the pasta into the boiling water.

“Pasta with chicken and asparagus.”

“I don’t think I can eat pasta tonight. And asparagus is out of season; it’s probably not good.” Finally, I am silent.

Walking with My Mother at the Mall on Super Bowl Sunday

My mother never stopped being keen about walking, even when she could no longer walk in her beloved woods. The safest place for her to exercise is the Lewis County Mall, where she picks up a cart outside the Sears store and pushes it around and around the mall’s small interior.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I take her to walk. The mall is dark, the main doors locked. Let me explain the Lewis County Mall. There are only two stores: Sears and the scary “sporting goods” store, with dead animal heads on the walls and a pink t-shirt in the window sporting a knock-off of the Starbucks logo that says, “I love guns and coffee.” It was closed for the game. Other than that it’s all county services offices, also closed on Sunday. Hence the lockdown.
We enter through the Sears’ doors, past the clerks wearing Seahawks shirts, calling “Go Hawks!” to us.
“Who are the Seahawks playing against?” Mama asks me once we get a cart and begin our slow ramble.
“I have no idea,” I say.
She laughs. It’s a sound I rarely hear anymore.
“Does the winner go to the Rose Bowl?” she asks.
“I think so,” I say.