Last year on Valentine’s Day, all gifts, celebrations, and events paled in comparison to an infamous labor of love (emphasis on the word “labor”). They took three hours and about half my sanity to make, and they’re all I heard about for the following three weeks, maybe even three months.
Heck, I still hear about them to this day.
See, it started when I came across a picture of the sweetest looking heart-shaped cookies on Instagram a week or two before Valentine’s day last year, and immediately I knew I would make them for my cookie-loving boyfriend as part of his gift.
Part of it — meanwhile, I doubt either of us could tell you what the rest of the gift was, yet the cookies get commemorated every other day. (I’ve been asked at least a dozen times in the last year when I’ll be making these little devils again.) Little did I know they would become the bane of my existence.
How hard could some jelly cookies be to make? VERY HARD, let me tell you. Very, very hard. For someone who hardly bakes and never measures a thing while cooking, these baked hearts became my worst enemy soon after I embarked on their creation. Dramatic? Per usual, yes. Accurate? Absolutely.
Not only do measurements need to be exact when making treats that must be rolled and cut out into specific, easily breakable shapes, but also I learned the importance of owning an electric mixer. I didn’t have one when I made these, and my arms and patience paid the price.
So, after all the grief these cookies caused me, I’ll give you one wild guess as to who the sucker is who will be making them again this year. And, probably, the next and the next and the next. That’s right! Me.
I suppose this is a small-scale, silly painting of what it means to be altruistic in a relationship. And not always just a romantic relationship, though that’s what we’re talking about in this specific illustration. What does it take to put aside your own feelings of irritation or discomfort in the way of the happiness for those you love, be it a friend, family member, or partner?
Does it mean going out of your way to handwrite a note of your appreciation for that person in your life? Or picking up that thing you see at Target in the dollar section that you know would make their day? Or slaving away in the kitchen for a couple hours to bring a smile to that person’s face?
I don’t get this whole relationship thing right often, at all — not in any of my relationships. But cookies, those I can do, even if I fall short in other ways.
I remember the night I baked these all too well, my back sore from working the dough, bent over the counter for several hours. My mind tired and tolerance short from a long workday. But I remember John’s reaction more fondly, his pure delight and enthusiasm over what many might think of as simple baked goods that I could’ve easily picked up from Kroger.
I joke that I’m going to do that this year, just pick up a batch from the store.
But I think the special part about memories and starting traditions is both the sweetness and the sourness that can come with them. These dang cookies were a pain in my neck, literally, to make — but the end product was worth it. And to witness that simplest form of happiness at the price of one tough night of baking per year is just fine by me.
Just don’t tell John I said so. I like to keep him on his toes.
Photography by Jessica Steddom.