"Yum! Chocolate Chip!" one of us would announce.
"Don't tell me, you jerk! I wanna be surprised," the other would complain.
Then, the fight for the first cookie would start. We got so wrapped up in trying to get the first cookie, we didn't notice the tray was about to fall to the ground a few times and we ended up dropping all of them on the floor. Mom would come in and yell at us for fighting and making a mess.
"Now look what you kids did! I spent all day slaving over this hot oven and for what? For you guys to mess the place up when you get home fighting over a cookie? I made four dozen! There is plenty for everyone!"
We would both get spankings and be sent to our rooms without either of us getting the cookie we fought over. As we sat sulking, Mom eventually came in with a half cookie for each of us.
"Here, this is the first cookie. I never had any because I know how you kids like to be the first to eat them."
"But, Mom... there is only half a cookie here! I wanted the whole thing!"
Mom would look at me and smile.
"The other half is for your sister. She deserves to have the first one just as much as you do."
"I guess," I said, disappointed.
She would hand me the half cookie and kiss my cheek.
"You can come out when you want to now. Dinner will be ready soon." She would then leave the room and I would gobble the cookie as fast as I possibly could, in fear that my sister would try to take it from me. She never did, of course. Years later, I found out she did the exact same thing in her room.
As my sister and I grew up, the cookies were baked less and less. We got more involved with friends and extra-curricular activities and Mom didn't have time to bake as much as she once did, too. In fact, the only time we got them was for special occasions, like birthdays or when we had company. Tina, my sister, eventually learned how to bake, but her cookies were somehow not as good as Mom's. Even she said they weren't as good, even though Mom taught her exactly how to make them.
"I guess it must be the extra love I put in them," she would comment when asked why hers were so much better. My sister and I laughed and agreed that it was a good reason. The love clearly did make a difference.
When we moved out of the house for college, Mom made us each four dozen cookies to take with us.
"I think we are going to put on the freshmen fifteen within the first couple days with all these cookies," I said with a smile.
"Well, at least you will be walking all over campus, so that should help a little," Mom joked.
She gave us a hug and we said our good-byes. For the next several years, we didn't see Mom much. When we did, though, she always had cookies made for us.
"You don't always need to bake for us, you know. We would be fine without the cookies. You shouldn't be on your feet too often anymore. Without 1dad in the picture, you need to take it easy," we would both tell her.
Dad died early on in the year. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer in November the year before, and he died three months later. Around the same time, Mom's diabetes took a turn for the worse and she started losing motor function in her legs.
Tina got married five years after school and I still never found anyone. Mom would bug me that she would have no one to pass her cookie recipe to if I didn't hurry up and find someone. I just laughed.
"You have a lot of time left yet, Mom. Besides, we already know they wouldn't be the same. The love quantity would be too different. Until we can quantify love, they will never be as good.”
As the years went by, Mom became sicker. We had a healthcare worker go in to see Mom because we had no time to help. I had a job at a hospital out of town and Tina was busy trying to balance her career and family. She had her second baby and was not getting any sleep. Mom tried to help when she could, but her legs were bad and her organs were beginning to shut down. We knew that soon she would be bedridden. Each time she visited, she brought our favourite cookies and we still fought over the first one.
"Soon you guys will be fighting over the last one. Once I am gone, the secret ingredient goes with me," she always said.
She still took the cookie from us and split it in two and gave us the halves. We just laughed and told her she better not leave us. The cookies would never be the same.
A day before she was going to be staying with me for a week, I got a call from the healthcare worker saying Mom had passed in the night and that I should get there as soon as I could. I booked a plane ticket right after I got off the phone. Knowing my sister would be on her way immediately, I called to tell her when my flight was and asked her not to go without me.
She picked me up from the airport and we drove straight to Mom's house. She informed me she honoured my request as we rounded the last corner before getting home.
We entered the house and could smell the sweet aroma of cookies. Although it would have been some time since they were baked, the smell lingered in the air as if she were still there. We found the tin she was likely going to bring for me and dug into the cookies for old time’s sake and talked about our favourite memories of Mom.
After several hours of catching up, we looked down into the tin and all but one of the cookies was gone. We both stared at the cookie and then at each other. Tears formed in our eyes as it hit us both this was the last time we would have Mom's cookies.
Without a word, I picked it up and split it in two. I walked over to my sister and handed her half. She got up and hugged me as tight as she could and I hugged her back. We cried, holding each other and the last cookie we would ever have from Mom. When we finally let go, we swore that neither one of us would ever eat it. Instead, we’d preserve it as best we could. We vacuum sealed our cookie half and placed it in our freezers for safekeeping.
Mom's love was in that last cookie and there was no way we were going to ever lose it.