Cookie blues

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Marjorie A. Schurr
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Last year, my dad baked around 4,000 cookies for Christmas.


Yes, you read that right. No, that’s not a typo. My father baked thousands of cookies and didn’t sell a single one. Hours of labor, late nights and early mornings, and countless arguments with my mother over their flour-coated and egg-splattered warzone of a kitchen earned him not a penny. It was a labor of love, meant simply to bring joy to family and friends each year.


My father loved Christmas and everything about it. He was as far from religiously devout as one could get, but Christmas lit him up with joy anyway. He was known for extravagant light displays, an unhealthy obsession with Christmas ornaments, and even for watching Hallmark Christmas movies all year round. But the thing he was most famous for was the cookie onslaught.


Each year, there would be so many leftover cookies that my parents would feel as if they were drowning in cinnamon and sugar and pecans. They would then shove the cookies at me to distribute to people at the base, especially at the yearly holiday party. A figurative army would descend upon the tray and devour it, much to Dad’s extreme pleasure. I became so famous for this that I’ve already gotten questions from several people of how many cookies I’ll be bringing this year.


And each time I have to explain, over and over again, that there won’t be any at all.


My father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in October, and it’s quite possible that the yearly cookie onslaught died with him.


I know he would be angry with me if he could see me now. I can’t even bring myself to hang a wreath on my door, let alone take on his mantle and bake cookies. “Christmas is a time for joy, Marge,” he’d say. “Suck it up. There are countless people who have it worse than you right now.”


Thing is… he’d be right. There are other people suffering around me right now, some of them worse than me. The holidays aren’t always easy and sometimes inflict more pain than joy in the broken-hearted. However, we don’t always wear our suffering so obviously our faces.


So what do you do when you find someone who laughs a little less than usual at holiday parties, who quietly declines to go caroling though they normally go each year, who might be celebrating the holidays alone this year, or who might be faced with an empty chair at their table?


The answer is simple: be a Wingman.


Take the time to notice when your fellow Airman might not be at their best. Ask them how they are. I don’t mean the casual “hey how are you” one might say while on their way from Point A to Point B, walking away before the other person can respond. Look them in the eye, make the effort to really see them, and ask them how they are doing.


Be there for them, no matter their response. They might not be ready to talk about what’s eating at them yet, and that’s okay. Keep checking in now and then. But make sure that if they do open up to you, listen attentively to their words.


Let them know that you care. Let them know that they are valued, seen, and understood. This could be by making them dinner and spending an evening with them, offering to watch the kids for an hour so they can take some time to themselves, or something as simple as a kind word and a listening ear when they need it. Acts of service and support don’t have to be flashy to be effective.


And don’t forget that if the situation develops further, there are several resources available to all Airmen when needed. If you are not a mental health professional, do not pretend to be. If your Wingman needs care that is beyond your range of expertise, don’t be afraid to escort them where they need to go.


Most of all, be more than a coworker. Be a friend. If you make sure to do that and to value your Wingman’s well-being above all else, everything else will follow.


If you are having a hard time this holiday season, know this: I see you. I care about you. And I don’t care if we’ve been friends for a decade or if we’ve never met before—I am here for you always.


I may not be able to hang a wreath on my door this year, but thanks to the Wingmen in my life, I know that I can still feel joy even if my father is gone. Maybe next year I’ll even be able to share the joy with others the same way my father used to.


I don’t know. Come find me next year and ask. Who knows, you might just receive a cookie in thanks.