A couple of weeks ago, I spent the evening making cookies for Little Drummer Boy’s preschool “tailgate party,” one of the perks of living in a college town. This particular Mississippi State Bulldog affair warranted some sweet combination of maroon and football. I decided round cookies would suffice since we don’t have dog bones or footballs in our cookie cutter collection. (I can’t believe those have escaped us somehow.) So, on Wednesday night, I baked the cookies without much fanfare. Yes, I used a cookie mix for my dry ingredients and the cutter-less prep meant that I could just drop them on the cookie sheet rather than rolling them out. Baking was accomplished in short order, and I saved the icing for the next night.
Faced with relatively round cookies and the need for some Bulldog spirit, I decided the best route was to ice them in maroon and pipe little football shapes on top. Ok. So, Thursday night was icing night. This time Little Drummer Boy was enthused to help every step of the way. He planted himself on his little chair right next to me with a “what are you doing now?” with each new activity. Icing footballs had won out over Miss Piggy, Lightning McQueen and even a few tractors and firetrucks. That’s tough competition for a half-homemade cookie.
He called it brown. It looked like the 80s favorite “dusty rose” to me–most definitely not maroon. They were not even close to the perfectly round, perfectly smooth, Bulldog-topped numbers you see at Kroger around these parts this time of year. The football shapes, piped with one of the only two remaining screw-on tips I could find, prompted a “what’s that” from LDB, and the gray “laces” were a little spider web-like. (To my credit, the gray was spot-on. I didn’t go to art school for nothing.) But, with my little enthusiast contributing, every explanation was met with a “those are cool” as he was pasted to my side during the whole process. The experience warranted more than one “these are for MY party” with all the joy of knowing Mommy was making something just for him. Fueled by a four-year-old’s staunch belief that Mommy can do anything, we pressed on. Two and a half dozen cookies later, Little Drummer Boy’s encouragement through the process was undaunted regarding what could very charitably be described as pink cookies with spider web-covered ovals on top. And then, the lure of helping to take out the garbage pulled him away. We were done. Perfection in all its flawed glory.
The naysayer in me said “just go pick yourself up a clear plastic container from the nearly-fresh bakery section.” But, you know, my mother never bought decorated cookies. You couldn’t buy decorated cookies in those days — at least not at the Kwik Shop where we grocery shopped. I remember Mama’s cookies as being perfect. I’m sure in reality they were far from it, but the illusion in my mind isn’t tarnished with age–only more wisdom from my own motherhood. You see, even then, the perfection was in the moment, not the cookie. It was in how fun my Mom made it to get down the plastic cookie cutters, to add food coloring to the ready made icing. To toss the sprinkles or red hots or whatever confection she thought would give them that special touch. Even to do something else while I knew Mama was making cookies for my party was fun. The painstaking yellow triangular Jack-o-lantern eyes, the snowmen’s colorful scarves. The process created a perfectly sugared up, worn out, flour dusted, counter cluttered moment–and some pretty good cookies, too.
Perfection of the kind that produces NCAA regulation football shapes is highly over-rated. And more and more these days, I’m finding satisfaction in letting perfection slide. I want to spend my energy building the perfect moment, not the perfect product or the perfect person. The perfect moments of standing with Mommy at the counter, stirring the bowl, licking the spoon, proudly presenting the blue plastic platter filled with cookies to the class–the moments will be remembered far longer than the mauve-colored icing that should have been maroon. Perfection is in the process and the joy of effort, the imperfect outcome of moments spent on what matters. Yum.