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  • Patty Ihm

Shortbread Cookies


It stood alone, illuminated by the glow of the moon in the early morning hours. The air was crisp, and I knew that my garden days were numbered. The displaced, not-yet-granted wish flower appeared, nearly magically, along the path of my return to the farmhouse where my family still slept. If I had done my chores in a different order, I may not have seen the flower at all.


She reminds me each time I see her, though I haven't forgotten. On the day of her arrival from India so many years, ago, I pushed my wide-eyed toddlers, now young adults, down the street in the bright purple jogging stroller to meet this nine-year-old girl who was to be our neighbor, the daughter of our precious friends. The day had been long in coming. In anticipation of her homecoming, we baked shortbread cookies, our favorite recipe, cut into heart shapes and sprinkled with a little sugar on top.


Like the wish flower, the words of the radio announcer took me by surprise. The last game of the season. Surely Pat Hughes, the familiar, friendly voice of my beloved Cubs, was mistaken. How could this be? It was October, after all, and their record had not earned the team a post-season berth; not this year, anyway. I was feeling nostalgic, maybe even a little misty-eyed, as I went about my business transplanting strawberries into a new garden bed.


Pulling my garden cart toward the house, I was struck by the majestic beauty of the sun-colored dahlias, last to flower. I had staked them, along with their bold pink comrades, weeks earlier when they began to tip, well before any evidence of bloom. In their own time and with support, they stood tall, strong, and breathtakingly beautiful.


I stood in wonder at the edge of the road on the day in early summer when I received the invitation to her wedding celebration. We had watched her grow. She had helped me with my children, something tasked only to the courageous few, showing up when I needed her even when it was hard--really hard. She went on to grown-up things.


It hadn't been the charm of the wedding venue, a brick-walled warehouse amid a haven of a garden store, the graceful music, or even the tiny pixie of a flower girl with her woven basket that spilled iridescent petals as she spun, that cast an undeniable spell on the wedding guests. The palpable love, the physical beauty which paled in comparison to the grace coming from within this ethereal soul and her partner, was something that could only have been created by the hands of the Maker.


I cried different tears. I don't believe she would tell you that her life has been a fairy tale. In that moment, though, and in looking back on the time that had passed, there was wonder in knowing that the uncertain path had led to something unimaginably beautiful, even magical.


She brought some of her new family members to visit the farm just last week. We tossed scratch to the hens and roosters, and she spoke of having lived on a farm with chickens as a small child in India. Her eyes shone as they had the day she first came, the day, one of many, that she was brave beyond measure. She told her in-laws, probably not for the first time, about the shortbread cookies. I thought how fitting it was that they had been cut into heart shapes on that day, long ago.


It seems her wish has come true; I don't think she needs the flower. And though I still have a precious few little league games to attend before this year's baseball season comes to an end, it's comforting to know that there will always be another opening day, another bloom, and another batch of cookies to look forward to.


XOXOXO

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SHORTBREAD COOKIES


1 1/2 cups butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup sugar


Cream butter and powdered sugar together until light. Sift flour and salt together and add to creamed mixture along with vanilla. Gather dough into a ball, wrap, and chill slightly. Roll onto floured board and cut. Sprinkle sugar on top of cookies. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes, or until just starting to brown slightly.

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