My mother, Virginia O'Neill, began baking Christmas cookies the day after Thanksgiving. In our rough-and-tumble household — I have five younger brothers — this 25-day exercise was the single activity that required quiet, a delicate touch, and a slow pace. We were all intimidated. But we each wanted to be "the one" chosen to assist. Our mother would not brook more than one helper. It was one of the few times we got to be alone with her. My loud, strapping brothers and I (no shrinking violet) all learned how to bake.
For the past several decades, my nieces and nephews have lined up for the job. My mother, whose greatest joy in launching her own brood is a perfectly ordered kitchen, sighs, “Love them, hate the mess.” She has, therefore, developed a few rules:
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