Caro wanted her first Christmas with Randy to be perfect. He would be shipping out in the new year.
Caro had been so lucky. Randy had been just across the river training and drilling with his ship mates, but the war in the Pacific was heating up and Mr. Roosevelt needed to rebuild Naval power quickly. Randy was quietly excited. He was tender with Caro’s feelings, not discussing his deployment when they were together, but Caro overheard him talking to his father the other day, as the two came out of the orange grove. Randy’s voice was trembling with excitement as he and his father discussed the recent battles in places far away with strange names.
Caro sighed and shook her head to rid it of these thoughts. She must focus on making their first Christmas as husband and wife special. Caro had saved her ration coupons to purchase flour and sugar. Mama had brought her two pounds of fresh butter. Caro was going to make Randy’s favorite Christmas cookies- Spritz cookies. His mother had handed over the shiny cookie press and her stained card with the recipe written in her beautiful handwriting.
Caro creamed the butter and sugar, added flour, baking soda and a pinch of salt. She laid the dough in a bowl and set it in the icebox to cool. The recipe called for chilled dough. Caro eagerly checked the dough between chores. Late afternoon, the dough was set.
Caro gently dropped a portion of the dough into the cookie press. She screwed the lid tight and placed it the press on the cookie sheet. Twisting gently she lifted the press. The dough had formed a tiny, chubby Christmas tree. Caro sighed happily. This was going to be a cinch.
Her little trees marched gaily along the cookie sheet. Carefully she placed the cookies in the oven and sat down to fan her face with her apron. It was a warm December day. North Florida temperatures always fluctuated wildly during December. The mornings could dip into the low 30’s only to climb to the high 70’s by mid-afternoon.
Caro peeked into the oven. The little trees were beginning to brown on the edges. She opened the oven door and took out the cookie sheet. Perfect!
When Caro began to press out the second batch of trees she noticed the dough was beginning to stick. She opened the press and added fresh, cool dough. The first row came out perfectly, and then the trees stuck again. Caro put in more dough, two came out of the press, then nothing. She twisted and twisted but the dough refused to budge.
Caro began to sweat in earnest. What was going on? She opened the press and removed the dough, adding fresh, cool dough and plying the press again she was able to squeeze out three trees before the press ground to a halt.
Over the next hour, Caro tried changing the cookie cutter on the press. She re-chilled the dough, washed and dried the press and re-loaded it with dough. The press refused to make more than three or four little cookies.
Caro finally admitted defeat. Her hair escaping the kerchief tied around her head, stuck to her sweaty neck. Flour streaked her face, and covered her apron. Dough was stuck to the table, the cookie sheet, and the floor. She stomped outside, sat in her rocker, and cried into her apron.
Randy came up the steps and found his wife covered in flour; her face streaked with tears.
“Darlin’ what’s the matter?”
“Oh, Randy,” Caro began to shed fresh tears. “I wanted this to be a perfect Christmas and now it’s ruined!”
“Now darlin’ how can Christmas be anything less than perfect. I got my gift right her, my wife!”
“But, Randy I was going to make your favorite Christmas cookie. I had your Mamma’s recipe, and she loaned me her cookie press and everything, but I couldn’t get those darn cookies to come out.”
Randy threw back his head and laughed.
“It’s not funny Randy. That darned press doesn’t like me!”
“Darlin’ didn’t Mamma tell you about that press?”
“No, she just smiled when she gave it to me, and told me to have fun.”
Randy laughed again.
“Darlin’ when Mamma made spritz cookies, we were sent outside, all the way to the river, and told not to come home ’til she rang the dinner bell. One time when I was about eight or nine, I came back early to get my slingshot, and I heard Mamma in the kitchen bringing the wrath of God onto that danged cookie press. That’s why she sent us away, so we wouldn’t hear her losing her temper. Daddy always came home with wildflowers and some fresh oranges from the grove and thanked Mamma over and over for those cookies. Seems my Daddy’s mamma passed that cookie press onto Mamma when they got married.”
“Oh, Randy no wonder she was happy to hand over the recipe and press.” Caro began to chuckle herself.
“Honey, I like those cookies just fine, but I love my wife more than any ole cookie. You bake me anything with those pretty little hands and I guarantee I will be happy as a clam.”
Caro threw her arms around her husband.
“That’s the best Christmas present you could give me, Randy,” whispered Caro, as they shared a kiss under the evening star.