Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Back in my Snot-Nose Days, one of the little delights of the Festive Season was... Christmas cookies!

Christmas was not Our Thing, you understand.  But we had many friends and neighbors who celebrated with gusto enough to go around.

Our neighbors across the street, the Williams family - their teenage daughter would often babysit me and the Other Elisson - would inevitably invite us over.  We would admire their Christmas tree and its scintillating lights, and the adults would do... whatever it was adults do when they get together.  Eat and drink.  But what I looked forward to was the moment the cookies appeared... for Mrs. Williams was a Past Master at making one of the rarest and subtlest of treats: the Rum Ball.

Ahh, those Rum Balls!  Roughly the size of a ping pong ball, they had a sandy, yet yielding texture on the inside, and a snowy layer of sweet confectioner’s sugar on the outside.  Their sweet elusive rummy flavor is buried unto this day in a secret recess in my reptilian hindbrain.  Rum balls?  Had they been Opium Balls, they would have been no more addictive.

“Don’t have too many of those,” Dad would warn us.  “You”ll get shikker.”  Could we really get drunk from eating rum balls?  I doubted it, but you never knew.  Was that an alcoholic buzz that was beginning to steal over me, or just a sugar high?

There were other cookies, too.  Julia, one of the women who worked with Dad, would each year present us with a platter of assorted Christmas cookies.  These were not store-bought cookies, either - they were all homemade in their amazing variety, a real labor of love.  Those cookies were better than anything that ever came out of a bakery.  And yet...

...not even Julia, the Sweet Genius of Christmas cookies, could make a rum ball to compete with the ones Mrs. Williams made.  Alas, they are now relegated to the Memory-Bank, for in the intervening fifty-plus years I have never tasted their like.

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