From the outside, my childhood may appear to have been quiet, boring even. Born to Dutch immigrant parents, I went to church every Sunday (sometimes twice), and often during the week for other programs or events. The Calvinistic work ethic was alive and well in our home, and money was handled frugally.
But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun!
Cookies were a big part of my first ten years. Yes, my mother baked cookies- sometimes. But she didn’t really need to, because my father was a cookie salesman. (If my husband sold cookies, I don’t think I would bake them either.)
Dad drove a van all over Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, selling cookies to grocery stores, small gas bars, and even to the ubiquitous Canadian coffee shops named for a hockey player.
He couldn’t possibly contain all those cookies in one van load, so we always had a store of them in the garage.
Biweekly, a big rig from Ontario would arrive at our rural Nova Scotia home to unload the next shipment. There was always lots of excitement in our house the day the truck was coming! (It may even have influenced the course of my brother’s life who is now an Operations Manager for a large trucking firm in British Columbia…)
We would wait on the lawn while the truck backed up slowly to the garage. We would watch while the cases of cookies slide down the steel rollers. We thought it was cool that Dad could carry so many cartons at once. We were never allowed to carry more than two at a time- a dropped box meant lost inventory. We loved to watch the garage fill up again, to listen to the talk of the driver and sometimes his driver-in-training, to see what kinds of cookies we would get. Sometimes they would unload in pouring rain. I remember the wet cardboard smell to this day.
The empty boxes were great fun too. Being Dutch (and smart), Dad didn’t throw empty boxes out, but rather flattened and stacked them. They had many uses, such as a sort of mat that Dad could lay on while changing the oil in the vehicles.
Eventually, we moved to a new home, and most of our belongings went into cookie boxes. Once empty, the boxes still didn’t get thrown out.
Instead, my brothers and I folded them back up into empty cubes, and made elaborate forts and tunnels out of them in the vacant hay mow of our old barn. We put flattened boxes on the floor so our knees wouldn’t get sore. We spent hours up there being active and creative. And getting hungry.
After Christmas, Dad would have to remove all the stale gingerbread men, and the red & green wreath cookies from the shelves. He brought them back home. He may have received credit for them from the company, or it may have been a loss he had to swallow. Whatever the case, they made a convenient snack, sitting unattended in the barn.
The problem was, we would always get caught. The coloured sugar would stain our mouths an unnatural green or a Rudolph red. Somehow this never got past Mom! Which wasn’t great before supper. But the scolding we may have received never really diminished our fun, and more cookies would be eaten again. Maybe Mom didn’t really mind either- hungry kids are not usually happy kids, and besides she didn’t have to bake!
Post-holiday cookies made their way into the house too, and were not really stale at first. You would think I would have gotten sick of them, but I haven’t. When given the choice in a store today, I often choose the very same ones I ate in my childhood. And often, I smile.