I attached the tag securely to the bulging box, giving the spiraling ribbon a final twist.
Toffee Chocolate Chip.
It was the tenth box of cookies that day, the fifth variety, the thirtieth dozen. I’d been up since before seven, mixing, measuring, scooping, and baking.
“What’s for supper, Mom?” Zack hung upside-down on the kitchen chair.
“Lemon kisses, shortbread, and hot dogs.”
“Can’t we have real food?”
“We will, when I’m done baking and delivering cookies,” I replied. “Just a few more days, I promise.”
Long before the snow, before tree lots had been set up, I’d gotten the idea to bake cookies to make money for Christmas gifts, and now, I was up early every morning and baking until supper. I had requests for party trays, as well as orders for be-ribboned boxes containing three dozen cookies each.
I gathered up measuring cups and mixing bowls, arranging them in the dishwasher while the hot dogs boiled.
“Mommy,” Zack whined plaintively.
“I’m hurrying, Get your dad and sister.” I placed condiments and napkins on the sticky table. I scooped up spilled brown sugar, tossing it into the trash along with chocolate chip bags and butter wrappers. Underfoot, I could feel the floor gritty with crumbs.
Later, the air still redolent with the scent of cinnamon, I sipped my tea and enjoyed the quiet. It had been a clever idea, making cookies, I thought, even though life was temporarily chaotic and jumbled, rather like fruitcake, bits and pieces all mixed together, all of us caught in the muddle.
Soon our home would be restored to normal. There’d be no more bags of flour stacked along the wall. No bricks of butter piled chock-a-block in the fridge. No cookie sheets teetering on every available inch of counter space. I had two days left to finish the two hundred dozen cookies that had been ordered altogether. Then, we’d enjoy the fruits of my labour - a glorious Christmas with all the trimmings.
It was while I checking the various burns on my fingers that I discovered the disaster.
The diamond was missing from my wedding ring!
The hole gaped at me scornfully.
The fragrant Wassail Winterberry tea turned sour in my mouth.
When did I lose the diamond? More importantly, where? In one of the many batches of cookie dough I’d made in the last two weeks?
There was nothing I could do until morning, but I imagined someone getting up for a late night snack, at that very moment biting into a Raspberry Jam cookie, breaking a tooth on my diamond. Sleep, everyone.
In the morning, I began the disheartening work of phoning customers, re-calling uneaten cookies, and returning money. It also meant making calls to return the gifts I had purchased for our Christmas, so I could reimburse the customers. It was a long day.
The Cookie Extravaganza had become the Cookie Catastrophe. My family graciously piled the returned boxes of cookies, some still securely tied with ribbons, on the table and counters. No customer had had a dental mishap, but neither had anyone found my diamond.
When everyone was asleep, I placed some cookies on a plate - no point in wasting them - and sat by the fireplace. I was chilled and exhausted.
The diamond was the centerpiece of our symbol of devotion, and its loss was terrible. But it was the intent of my heart gone for naught that hurt. What had I been thinking? Where had my heart been?
Hidden in those hundreds of cookies was a treasure. Yesterday, today, last week, a precious stone had fallen into the batter unbeknownst to me, absorbed as I was in a flurry of flour and fierce purpose. And like the man buying the proverbial field with a buried prize of great value, I had redeemed the cookies. To eat through the lot of them? A daunting task.
I took a cookie from the plate, a gingersnap, and in the firelight, there was a sudden sparkle.
Could it be?
I gently pried at the glittering crystal. With a pang, I realized it was only a shard of coarse sugar. I knew then, that in all likelihood, my diamond had probably already been washed to the sea.
In that moment, Advent arrived, gently, unheralded, a gem to be cherished. It had been waiting silently, until I was prepared to see its gleam and glow in the holy Light.
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