“I’m going to Nancy’s,” I yelled over my shoulder on my way out the door.
Nancy lived across the street. Edge Hill Road, a two lane highway with a posted speed limit of 35 that was routinely ignored, separated us.
Her address was 1801 Acorn Lane, although the front of her two story colonial faced Edge Hill Road. My address was 1802 Edge Hill Road, although our split level faced Silver Avenue and Overlook Elementary.
“Wait up!” Dad called after me. “You’re only 10. I’m coming with you, to be sure you know how to cross that busy street.”
Dad pushed his chair away from his lunch and followed me. He held my hand as we stood in the gravelly grass next to the asphalt. A car whizzed past.
I could see the safety of Nancy’s driveway, just 20 feet across the road.
“Now, look both ways,” Dad instructed. He turned his head, looking left. Then he turned his head right. Another car drove past.
“Okay-“ he looked left. The road was empty.
“Go!” his hand pushed me into the street.
“Wait!” I jumped back. I had seen a car approaching from the right. Dad’s arm yanked me onto the grass, just in time. We watched it zoom away.
“I guess you don’t need me,” Dad laughed, shook his head and went home.
I climbed up Nancy’s driveway. The crabapple tree in the front yard was awash in pink and white blooms. Rhododendron bushes flanked the front door. I knocked. Nancy had two older sisters; Shirley was away at college. Jeannie, in high school, opened the door.
“How’s tricks?” she asked, knowing I would not know what to say. “Nancy! your little friend is here.”
I loved the Otis’ house. Nancy and I both loved history. My house was boringly modern with wall to wall carpeting. Her house was a perfect setting for colonial living: hardwood floors, braided rugs and fireplace. But the Otises were anything but old fashioned. In the dining room they had a color television. Her father worked for Philco, and had helped invent the color television. We only had black and white.
“What do you wanna do?” Nancy appeared from the dining room. We had already walked to Sears that morning to choose fabric for the long skirts Mrs. Otis was going to help us sew. It was almost a mile there, and then we had to walk back. We were tired.
I followed Nancy into the kitchen.
“Hi, Jill,” Mrs. Otis greeted me, looking up from the newspaper spread out on the kitchen table. Mrs. Otis was wearing a flowered blouse with a Peter Pan collar, and fitted skirt. She had sewn her clothes but you wouldn’t know it; the test of a real seamstress. My mother didn’t sew, not even loose buttons. My father did that.
Classical music played from the radio on the counter.
“What are you girls up to today?” Mrs. Otis asked cheerfully.
“Do you feel like making cookies?” Nancy asked me.
One thing our Mothers had in common: neither liked to bake. They made dinner every night, and did the food shopping, but if we wanted cookies, we made them.
Both our mothers had three girls, until Pam was born. Both were college graduates, my mother from Temple University. Nancy’s mother graduated Magna Cum Laude from Radcliffe, a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Both were leaders in their churches: Nancy’s mother was on the altar guild at St. Peter’s Episcopal church. My mother taught a Young Married class at our church.
“That’s a great idea,” Mrs. Otis stood up from the table and put her newspaper away.
She left the kitchen to us.
The window over the kitchen sink, edged with ruffled curtains, poured light onto our baking. I knew where the sifter was; Nancy opened the cupboards and pulled out the flour and sugar.
Nancy’s dad walked through the kitchen.
“Are you girls making cookies?” he asked. “Let me know when they’re ready. I’m going out to cut the grass. Then I’m going to set up the tent to get it aired out for our trip.”
Nancy’s family camped. My parents’ idea of a vacation was the beach.
“Could we sleep out there tonight?” Nancy asked her dad as he went out the kitchen door. We had done that last summer. During the day it’s a fun idea. At night, the tent is dark. Animals make creepy noises in the trees. I was terrified.
“Ask your mother-” he was gone.
We started mixing. Nancy turned the gas stove to 375. Their recipe called for “a heaping” 1/2 cup of Crisco. We knew what that meant, and dumped it into the three eggs, brown and white sugar.
Other than baking, Nancy’s family used margarine, and my family used butter. When we made cookies at my house, we used butter and the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House chips bag. There was only one kind of chips: semi-sweet, not milk chocolate.
In less than a half an hour from getting out the mixing bowl and combining ingredients, we pulled the first rack of fragrant cookies from the oven.
“They’re perfect!” we both agreed. The edges were golden, and cracks criss crossed the centers. Chocolate pieces poked up through the warm dough. We let them sit on the tray for a minute; then I got the spatula and transferred them to the metal rack to cool. Nancy slid the next tray into the oven.
We each reached for a warm cookie.
“These are so good!” We smiled as we bit into them. Descriptions of food enjoyment can turn graphic, almost pornographic, so I won’t go there. If you’ve had a good cookie, you know it.
Sometimes friends are surprised when they see me eating other chocolate chip cookies than my own homebaked: even packaged chocolate chip cookies.
“Your cookies are so good, why would you eat any others?”
The world is a big place full of different things to love.
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