Tracks in the Dough

A slow, cold drizzle was all the low, gray skies could give up that December afternoon. Inside, the Christmas tree with its colored lights, candy canes, and blinking, bubbling candles stirred up a cheerful, cozy warmth. I set a pot of cinnamon-scented wassail on the stove. It was time to heat up the oven and bake some cookies.

I opened my Cotton Country Collection cookbook to an oily, dough-stained page 459, “Holiday Sugar Cookies.” After creaming butter and sugar and blending in eggs and vanilla, I added flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt and then chilled the mixture. I lined counter tops with waxed paper and greased four cookie sheets. I pulled out a box of tin cookie cutters from the top shelf of the pantry—a camel, a Christmas tree, a Santa with a pack of toys slung over his shoulder, a bell, and a star. Then I generously floured the large butcher-block table in the center of my kitchen, kneaded, and rolled out cookie dough.

As I rolled to the left and then to the right, my two-year-old dragged his “little helper” stool up beside me. He brought with him two heaping handfuls of MATCHBOX cars—a yellow Peterbilt Pace Construction dump truck; a blue and yellow Peterbilt cement mixer, Cement Company, LTD; a yellow Camaro-IROC-Z 26; and a red Metro Airport FOAM Unit #3. He lined up his vehicles beside my dough, propped his elbows on the table, and smiled at me, content briefly just to watch me work with the rolling pin.

After a moment, the dump truck began its slow, deliberate journey into the flour at the edge of the table. A roadway formed in the flour. The Camaro joined, jutting off in a new direction, picking up speed. The cement mixer followed. The little boy leaned into the flour, encroaching on my clump of dough, happily driving his vehicles. As his lips vibrated softly to make the sound of an engine, the little boy pushed in the Foam Unit #3. With flour on his hands, elbows, and cheeks, and tiny bits of dough stuck to his shirt, he took the task seriously, absorbed in his construction project. Several roads took shape.

I continued working quietly beside him, cutting out bells and stars, as he drove vehicles back and forth in the flour and over the scraps of unused cookie mixture, leaving little tire tracks in the dough.

I thought, this moment reflected the essence of motherhood. Mother and child, together, each respecting, accepting, and allowing the other to creatively express the vision and gift of a unique personality—a spontaneous, special moment to savor, to slip into a scrapbook, to stamp in my memory.

The little boy is grown up now. The yellow dump truck, Camaro, cement mixer, and red Foam Unit #3 are boxed neatly and tucked away in the attic, with pieces of dried cookie dough still in the crevices of the tires. Each Christmas season as I pull out the old dough-caked cookbook and tin cookie cutters, I also pull out my memory of a precious little son smiling up at me through blond bangs, tugging at my heartstrings, driving MATCHBOX cars through my flour, and making tracks in the dough.

One Comment on “Tracks in the Dough”

  1. Susie says:

    ‘Precious’ was my first thought as I read this memory. It’s a word that is overused so the motherly meaning of it turns to vapor. In your piece with your first born son, it’s perfectly used and appreciated by this mother who also had a first born son around the same time of yours. Precious…

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