This is mostly a true story. If my dad doesn’t know about all this, people will be mad.
My mom used to have to hide cookies from my dad, otherwise he would eat all of them before anyone else had a chance to. To my knowledge, she does this to this day even though the kids have moved out of the house and it’s now just the two of them living in retirement. I guess he’d still eat all the cookies if only he knew there were some in the house.
She had a secret hiding spot in the dining room, under a spare chair that rested against the wall just outside the kitchen. We hardly ever used this dining room – for anything. Maybe for Thanksgiving dinner, or Christmas. But usually we just ate in the kitchen. We didn’t even use that room to store things, or to work or read. It was just a an unused dining room, with silverware hidden away and a decanter that was seemingly empty every time I saw it. And this room wasn’t on the way to any other rooms, so there was never really any reason to go into it. It was just tucked away in the back corner, clean and unused, waiting to entertain the upper-middle class souls who every so often decided to fancy things up and actually live the upper-middle class life they worked so hard to maintain. I remember it was always quiet in that dining room. It had a good view of the backyard and acres of undeveloped woods beyond, and was nice in the winter when the snow covered the grass and small groups of deer wandered by to eat our bushes. But other than for the view, and the occasional holiday dinner, I never went into that room.
Unless I wanted a cookie.
It was a secret I kept with my mother the entire time I lived in that house – I left for college after high school – and have not spoken of until now. She knew that I loved cookies. What child didn’t? Vienna fingers. Chocolate chip. Oreo. And even her special Christmas cookies that she made every year. She knew how much I loved those things. And she also knew that my dad would devour every last one as quickly as his teeth would chomp before anyone else even knew they existed. He had set records for how quickly he could go through a package of cookies. So fast that the dad to kid cookie consumption ratio was roughly fifty to one. And he’d often be scolded for eating all the cookies. “Jerry!” he mother would snap. “You ate the entire package and I only had two!” And Jerry would shrug his shoulders and mumble something about how she shouldn’t be buying them in the first place and that they needed to set a better example by only consuming fruits and vegetables. Then he’d open the pantry and search for whatever remained of the potato chip bag he had nearly crushed by himself the night before.
So my mother would wink at me and nod and when my father would disappear to bed, or would go to work, or be out playing racquetball, she’d inform me that there was a fresh pack of cookies under that spare chair in the dining room and that I could go in there and get one whenever I wanted. “I bought you some Vienna Fingers,” she’d say. “Don’t tell your father,” (as if I needed the reminder).
Sometimes she would leave half a box of cookies in the kitchen as a decoy so that Jerry would be tricked into thinking those were the only cookies. He’d usually eat what was there but it wouldn’t matter. “That half box is just to throw him off the trail of the real supply hiding in the next room,” Mom would say.
The secret cookie stash would nearly always be there, regardless of what was in the main pantry in the kitchen. Our supplies could be nearly empty and we’d be in need of a weekly store trip, yet there would still be half a box of Nilla wafers under that chair. She used to place folders and phone books and things there, to disguise the cookies so it just looked like any pile of stuff the father of the house would usually ignore. But he had no reason to ignore it – he simply never went into that room. It was literally the best hiding spot in the house!
And so my mother and brother and I would have our secret lot of cookies that were ours for years and years. When she’d make her famous Christmas cookies, good old Jerry knew there would be plenty of those available for consumption, and Christmas gave him the excuse to overindulge, yet Mom would place a few dozen of them into a secret cookie tin and stick them under that chair. Dad’s attention would be drawn to the cookies in the kitchen – the decoys. Token cookies left in plain view that he was free to eat at will. The REAL stash of Christmas cookies was safe in the next room.
She would use this same trick years later after they retired and lived together in a house in Florida. I didn’t really pick up this until my daughter Avery told me about an interaction she had with her grandparents during a visit to Florida. “Abuela has a container of peanut M&Ms in her office in a little ashtray. There’s a picture of YOU in the ashtray, Dada, but Abuela said it’s to make the ashtray look like it’s holding a stack of photos.”
“I put this photo of your father on top,” my mom told my kid. “But underneath, the dish is filled with my own secret stash of peanut M&Ms.” She’d lift the photo to reveal a small stash of peanut M&Ms.
“Shh, don’t tell your grandfather!”
Because on a shelf at the opposite side of the office, was a big jar of peanut M&Ms. Jerry had one just like it in HIS office at the other end of the house.
“He’ll finish all his M&Ms,” grandma would explain to granddaughter. “And then he comes in here and eats all of mine!”
So she kept a secret stash of M&Ms in the ash tray and made Avery PROMISE not to tell Granddaddy.
And if I’m visiting, she lets me steal an M&M or two too. But I try to stick to the M&Ms in that main jar. I don’t want to take any of Mom’s. She has a hard enough time getting her sugar fix as is it, and doesn’t need me hurting her cause. Yet if I did take an M&M from her secret stash, she wouldn’t hardly get mad. She might fake slap me and tell me to go away. But if my dad went in there and took her last M&M you’d want to steer clear of the house for at least a few hours. She would get so mad at him and yell and start cussing in Spanish. And then Jerry would wander away quietly mumbling that she needed to stop buying those things anyway and then head to the kitchen to see if there were any cookies to be found. There was usually half a box, staged brilliantly, and nothing but a decoy.
Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Minneapolis Running and Yahoo! Entertainment. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Mark lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughter.