Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ghost of Christmases Past

Don't let her size fool you; she is evil.
This week sibling and I are back in Cleveland, celebrating the holiday with our family. The semi-annual pilgrimage to my old bedroom provides a good excuse to rifle through the closets and become reacquainted with the ephemera of childhood. My mother has painstakingly wrapped and stored most of these things in the decade since I left home, but that never stops me from tearing into boxes of tchotchkes. During this year's digging, lurking under a box containing old dance shoes, yearbooks, MASH notes, and The Unauthorized Biography of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, I found her.

Elizabeth. We meet again.

Elizabeth was the she-devil doll that haunted the dreams of my most impressionable years. My parents brought her back from a U.K. vacation when I was a toddler. I'm sure she cost a pretty shilling and getting her delicate porcelain back to the States in one piece was a challenge. Oh, how life could have been different had she shattered over the Atlantic.

No such luck. Proud of their gift, my mom and dad put Elizabeth in a place of honor atop a tall bureau in my bedroom ... where she proceeded to terrorize me for years to come. At night, lady Elizabeth cast a haunting silhouette against the wall, forcing me to sleep facing the opposite wall to calm my panic. Since she was perched too high for my smaller self to reach (and destroy), the S.W.A.T. team was eventually called in each night. At bedtime Dad would place a hand towel over Elizabeth's glass display dome, shielding her eerie shadow from view. That is both the mark of a very patient father and a cruel one ...

Recently as I was telling this story, a friend asked, "Why didn't your parents just put her away if you were scared?" Huh. Why not indeed?! I'd never asked myself that question before. Today my mom insists that they "didn't think it was that big of a deal", but I'm sure that the low-grade psychological warfare was tantalizing to exhausted parents of two young kids. "Remember when you threw that tantrum at the hairdresser's, Young Amy? Payback's a bitch. And by bitch I mean this creepy doll."

And stay she did. My family moved when I was five and like the Chucky doll she was, Elizabeth reappeared on the bureau in my new room. It took a couple more years until my mom finally retired Elizabeth to the cedar chest, probably because she was tired of folding hand towels every morning. (By "she" I meant my mom, but I would not be entirely surprised if Elizabeth herself came alive, lifted the dome aside, folded the towel, climbed down to stare coldly at my sleeping form, and then retreated to her lair at dawn.)

Elizabeth was gone but the damage was done; terror of nighttime remained. As the years went by, Bloody Mary (gah!), It, and every plot line of Are You Afraid of the Dark? taunted my overactive imagination. I'm the ultimate scary story wuss. Bloody Mary was so traumatizing that, even approaching 30, I still rush to turn the lights on in the bathroom at night lest she jump from the mirror and hatchet me, or whatever it was that she was supposed to do.

I was so anti-mirrors at night that I refused to have one in or near my bedroom, which lead to my habit of climbing the ledge of the bathroom tub to get a look at my outfits in the morning, which finally lead to a multi-fractured nose ... but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Holiday Gift to You: Buttersweet Cookie Recipe

Oh yeah.
This evening a friend is hostessing a retro-themed Christmas potluck: Jell-o molds, cheese balls, and all. What to bring? It's the perfect excuse to trot out my grandma's buttersweet cookie recipe.

The secret to this recipe is no secret, use real everything, no "healthier substitutes". My Grandma Peters did not cook often, but when she did her desserts were amazing because she had no qualms about fat or calories. These little guys are rich and filling, though always a hit. I've only made the recipe twice, but on my first attempt a couple of years ago, they blew away the competition at my office cookie contest. Never underestimate the power of butter, sugar, more butter and sugar, coconut, nuts, cream cheese, and chocolate in one bite. Om, nom nom. 

My gift to you readers this Christmas is her old recipe, modified to modern proportions. If you do give it a go, let me know how they turn out. :) On a sidenote, I'm also bringing deviled eggs to the party this evening, so I hope there is a defibrillator on the premises.

"Read more" for recipe.