Illustrations by Tony De Luz
Sammie Jo and Grandma stood outside the garage door, waving goodbye to mommy as she backed the car down the long winding drive and onto the two-lane road beyond. When they could no longer see flashes of the blue station wagon, the two walked hand-in-hand into the house. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and cooked sausage mingled comfortably in the air. The familiar aromas made Sammie Jo smile.
“So,” Grandma said, unwrapping Sammie Jo’s scarf, “what should we do today?”
Sammie Jo’s brown eyes danced with delight at the possibilities. “I know,” she answered after hanging up her coat on the white hook just inside the kitchen door, “let’s bake Christmas cookies!” Grandma’s smile faded slightly. “Hmm,” she said softly, “why don’t we get out your teddy and have a tea party instead.”
Sammie Jo tilted her head and watched curiously as her grandmother walked into the den, settling heavily on the end of the sofa next to the table with the pink floral lamp. The lamp caught Sammie Jo’s eye. The fringe was swaying, making her want to run her fingers through it and feel it tickle the back of her hand.
But Sammie Jo resisted the temptation and perched herself on Grandma’s knee instead. “But Grandma, we always bake cookies on our holiday weekend. Remember? The candy canes with the peppermint icing are my favorite.” Grandma chuckled. “Yes, and I remember your daddy likes the snowmen with sprinkles.”
“Can’t we bake them, Grandma? Can’t we, please?” Sammie Jo said with a playful smile.
“It’s not that I don’t want to, sweetie,” she replied, gently tucking one of Sammie Jo’s stray curls behind her ear. “It’s just that Grandma’s eyes aren’t what they used to be.”
Sammie Jo peered into the soft hazel eyes she’d known for as long as she could remember. “But they look the same to me,” she said, puzzled.
Grandma laughed. “I supposed they do. But while they may be the same on the outside, on the inside they’re a little blurry. And that makes it hard for Grandma to see.”
Sammie Jo leaned in closer, cradling her grandmother’s cheeks in her small hands. “Can you see me?”
Grandma groped in the air, reaching all around Sammie Jo, pretending not to be able to find her, until suddenly from behind, Grandma’s fingers found Sammie Jo’s tickle spots and the two of them fell back into the sofa in a fit of giggles.
After a while, Sammie Jo composed herself. She grew serious and asked, “If you can see me, why can’t you see how to bake cookies?”
“I can see how to bake them, I just can’t see well enough to read the recipe.”
Sammie Jo thought about this for a minute, then jumped straight up. “Grandma! Guess what? I can read now. I know lots of words. I could be your eyes!”
Grandma gazed steadily at the youngest of her three grandchildren. Sammie Jo was only 6 and some of the recipes were quite faded; could she really help read them? On the other hand, Grandma hadn’t made any of her special recipes in quite some time. And she knew how much the tradition meant to her family. “Alright. You’ve got a deal. You can be my eyes.”
“Yay!” said Sammie Jo, hugging Grandma tightly. “Let’s get started.”
Grandma followed Sammie Jo into the kitchen and pulled down the leather-bound book of recipes from the top shelf of the pantry. As Sammie Jo carefully turned the pages, Grandma took out the rolling pin, cookie cutters, and baking sheet.
Finding her great-grandmother’s special cookie recipe, Sammie Jo slowly read the list of ingredients, stopping to get out the things she could reach and waiting patiently for Grandma to gather the others. Soon flour and vanilla flavor, pieces of sticky dough, and bits of peppermint were sprinkled everywhere, including Sammie Jo’s nose and Grandma’s apron.
The pair made a great team. Sammie Jo read the measurements like a chef and when she had trouble with a word, Grandma’s memory helped her figure it out. Soon, the delicious scent of cookies brought Grandpa inside.
Sammie Jo ran and jumped into his arms. Scooping her up, he kissed her cheek, wiped a bit of flour from her hair, then looked over her head at Grandma.
“Helen, dear,” he said, “fresh baked cookies?”
“But you haven’t had that recipe book out in ages. What brought this on?”
Grandma winked at me. “I just needed my best helper around, that’s all.”
Sammie Jo grinned proudly. “I was her eyes, Grandpa. And guess what else,” she said.
“You’re just in time for our holiday tea party.”