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The Carol Sing
by Nancy Bowker

My 11-year-old daughter Casey is helping me make Nestle’s Toll House chocolate chip cookies. We need to take 2 dozen to church for guests after the 6 to 7 p.m. carol sing. Fond memories of the carol sings of my youth at First Methodist in Palo Alto are filling my head.

Casey is good at measuring but tires of mixing. When we are ready to drop the dough onto the cookie sheets, we discover something interesting. On the back of the chocolate chip package the directions say to drop by rounded tablespoonfuls. I distinctly remember it is teaspoonfuls. Now, this is about my 45th year of making Nestle’s Toll House cookies, and I think I know.

I pull out my recipe box and retrieve the old recipe. Teaspoonfuls. Is it a mistake or on purpose? We do teaspoonfuls. Later I decide that the company has changed it on purpose. I wonder if you buy more chocolate chips this way? My daughter says maybe a serving is bigger now than before.

I feed my triplets dinner early. Now that they are 11, I am hopeful that my boys will be able to sit through the carol sing. It’s singing, after all, no sermon.

Something delays our getting into the van, so we are cutting it close. I have promised my children cookies – I had delivered ours this Sunday morning to a kitchen full of cookies. A couple minutes to six we park and sprint to the sanctuary.

We receive programs from the greeters and thankfully find an empty pew at the very back of the sanctuary. “Where are the cookies? When do we get them?” asks Don. I realize I should have mentioned the singing earlier.

“After the singing.” I say.

“There are 14 songs,” he says, counting them in the program. He keeps track as they are sung; “Mom, that was the first one!” “Mom, that was the second one!” and so on. The only relief for me is the audience participation song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. There are four long songs after that.

The boys don’t make it – after 51 minutes we are in the lobby of the church, walking to and fro, using the bathroom, and getting drinks of water from the fountain. We go back in.

Don is next to me, in a collapsed accordion shape, bent double at the waist with his feet under his bottom and his head looking at the floor. I lean over and whisper, “How are you doing?” There is no answer. I whisper “It won’t be long now.” Again there is no response.

I straighten up. Casey, sitting on Don’s other side, points to his head, which is up against the back of the pew. I have been talking to his bottom!

Casey and I laugh uproariously during a particularly solemn rendition of Silent Night. (By the way, the Baptists can take any hymn, slow it down and make it sound like a funeral dirge.) Besides the cookies, this is the highlight of the night.