dan james and his cookie plate

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Every Christmas, my mother makes a cookie plate for Dan James. She gives it to him right after church in the parking lot, and he eats its entire contents during the ride home. He licks the platter clean before he even pulls into his own driveway.

We are 99% positive that this is how it all goes down.

We wouldn’t mind so much what Dan James did with his cookies if my mom made lousy Christmas cookies. But she doesn’t. She makes beautiful, delicious, time-consuming cookies, which deserve to be tasted and enjoyed on an individual basis, and if Dan James is just going to push them into his face without really even tasting them (nom nom nom), covering the front of his coat with crumbs, we may as well just buy him a box of Little Debbies, or re-gift him some cookies from the next-door neighbor and let him feast on those instead.

Why do we care so much what Dan does with his cookies? Why we get so upset when he eats them in one fell swoop before he even makes it out of the church parking lot? Why do we think we should be able to dictate and control how he chooses to enjoy his own Christmas cookies?

The same reason we feel we should be able to dictate and control everything: we just do.

And also, it’s a little bit of a church thing. Dan James is a CHURCH friend and he should KNOW that gluttony is a sin. Yet year after year, he sits there one minute, listening to Bible Doctrine, only to rush out the door the next, shoveling cookies into his head like the Tasmanian Cookie Monster. Hasn’t he been paying attention? We had no choice but to take the matter into our own hands.

The first year, we started out gently. While my mom boxed up the cookies in a festive tin, I wrote a jaunty little Christmas poem, wishing him a Merry Christmas, and warning him of the sin of gluttony, stating that if he didn’t want to end up in hell he should probably not eat all of them at once on the ride home. This should’ve been enough: who wants to go to hell for gluttonously eating all of his Christmas Cookies in one fell swoop?

Nonetheless, we’re pretty sure that – despite the note – he ate all of them, at once, on the ride home again, anyway. He didn’t even read the note until he got home, we found out later, his face all covered in powdered sugar, no doubt.

So, the next year, we decided to turn up the volume a bit. If he couldn’t control his voracious appetite and keep himself from the fire of Hades, it was our responsibility as the cookie givers to protect him from himself. It was not my idea. I merely carried out the plan, wrapping the entire box with layers and layers of duct tape, transforming my mother’s pretty festive cookie box into a cookie box so covered in silver-grey duct tape that it could have survived the Titanic disaster, lifeboat shortage and all, without the least bit of water damage. There is absolutely no way that Dan would have been able to break into the box on the way home, unless he had a chainsaw sitting on the seat beside him.

My mother’s cookies were so tempting and delicious, however, that we could imagine that he’d try to break through the duct tape anyway, holding onto the steering wheel with his left hand, clawing at the tape with his right hand, his Jeep screeching and swerving all over the road, cookies being shaken and smashed to pieces inside the box, Dan himself swearing and angry, steam coming out of his ears like a cartoon character, until he eventually swerved off the road and into a tree.

Since we’re not entirely heartless and didn’t want him spending the holidays in the ICU, we did allow him one little treat, one perfect cream-filled ladylock, which we wrapped in Saran Wrap and gently secured to the top of the box with a hangtag that read: “ONE FOR THE ROAD, DAN! One! Uno. Not two, not three. Uno!”

We were sure that once he was forced to savor his solitary treat, he’d realize the error of his previous gluttonous cookie-eating ways, and would emerge from his Jeep a changed and better man, complete with a self-imposed cookie-rationing plan that would last him well into the New Year.

“Well,” he said, the next time we saw him in church. “I see you packaged that one a little better than you did the last time. I couldn’t even get to the little one on top! Uno,” he chuckled quietly to himself. “I liked that part. Uno. Not two, not three. Uno.”

Ahhh, the sweet taste of success. At least this year, the cookies survived the journey home! Baby steps, baby steps. They may not have lasted through the next hour, or even the next five minutes, but at least they got a foot in the door, which is the farthest they’ve ever made it before in their lives. This year, through the door; next year, the moon!

While we might not always be around to protect Dan from his old sin nature and help him make the right choices, we can certainly be there for him on the holidays. Because that is what the holidays are all about: caring about other people and dictating the way they eat their Christmas cookies.

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