Since it’s the holidays, I decided I’d get my housefrau groove on by baking cookies for our next door neighbors. When I revealed my plans to my friend Tamarie – who also happens to be an excellent cook – she paused for a beat and then said, “Let’s think of something else you can do.” This is the same woman who had to explain to me that lettuce comes in more than one variety, so really, who can blame her.
Kevin was no more reassuring. When I shared my Christmas treat idea with him, he forced a small smile and said, “That’s nice,” while at the same time quietly figuring out how to be out of the house during my cooking madness.
I didn’t care what these naysayers had to say. I was going to wake up at the crack of dawn this Sunday, wrap myself in the Christmas apron I found at Target (seriously, I bought one), and bake until my little Martha Stewart was satiated.
At first, it worked. By 7:45 am I was up and humming in the kitchen, putting out all the supplies I would need. Butter, vanilla, sugar, milk, and dye for the frosting, and Pillsbury premade sugar cookie dough for the cookies. (Hey, I was pushing it with the idea of making cookies. Even I knew homemade dough wasn’t going to happen.)
I was about to slip in some Christmas music when I decided to first flip on the television to catch the morning headlines. As I clicked through, I made a discovery. They were showing “Psycho” on the STARZ channel. A huge fan, I quickly shelved the idea of frosting candy canes while singing along to `Santa Baby’ by Eartha Kitt.
Maybe that was my first mistake. Certainly watching a movie about a cross dressing homicidal maniac doesn’t create the right sort of Christmas spirit necessary for holiday cookies. As I tried to roll out the dough, I found it sticking to the rolling pin and breaking up in little chunks. When I finally got it to roll, I cut out shapes of gingerbread men, Christmas trees, and candy canes. Meanwhile, violins screeched as Marion Crane met her fate in the shower.
When I tried to pull the cookie shapes off the counter to place on the baking sheets, they fell apart in my hands. My overachieving, Type A personality began to steam.
“Damn it, nothing works, why can’t I get it to work!” I cried, tossing the rolling pin aside. Frustrated, I grabbed a hunk of raw cookie dough and made my way to the couch. “I hate cooking and I hate cookies,” I announced, waiting for the scene where the detective falls down the stairs before being stabbed by Mother. Annoyed at myself, I mentally calculated how many hours had to pass before I could pour myself a glass of white wine without feeling guilty about it. (Answer: Four hours.)
While I watched Marion’s sister and boyfriend continue to fruitlessly search for Marion, I decided I owed it to myself to give it another try. After all, if Sam and Lila had given up, good old Norman would have gone on whacking helpless ladies and private detectives to death. Surely I could accomplish a simple task like making Christmas cookies. I hauled myself back to the kitchen counter.
It took a while, but I did it. I accidentally cut some of the cookies so thick that when they baked in the oven, they ballooned into unrecognizable shapes. The Christmas trees turned into odd, uneven circles with points on them. The candy canes transformed into big blobs with hooks at the end. The poor gingerbread men appeared to need gastric bypass surgery. Still, I bit one, and they were edible.
The frosting went a little better despite my having to use a handheld mixer. I wasn’t sure how to make the colors just right, and in the end my red frosting looked more like Pepto Bismol. But it also tasted all right.
Around 9:30 am Kevin decided to grace the kitchen with his presence.
"How’s the cookie lady going?” he said, smiling.
“Go to Hell,” I answered.
After I made my deliveries (I have to say, the neighbors loved the thoughtfulness; I can’t say for sure if they loved the cookies), I made my way back to the house, my inner Donna Reed a tiny, shriveled memory.
“That was totally exhausting,” I announced to Kevin as I walked inside. “Next Christmas we’re giving Starbucks giftcards.”
“What the hell made you want to make cookies anyway?” he asked. “It was like you were possessed by some strange force.”
“I don’t know,” I said, wiping my hands on my Christmas apron and thinking about good old Norman Bates and his dear, beloved Mother. “All I can say is that I guess we all go a little mad sometimes.”