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Sugar, butter and Mom are all this writer needs

Mark Konkol his mom Bunny Konkol with her “ultimate” sugar cookies. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Mark Konkol and his mom, Bunny Konkol, with her “ultimate” sugar cookies. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 8, 2012 8:04AM

C ookies, I love them. Pure joy, if you’re looking for it, can be found during the few moments it takes for a peanut butter thumbprint or a crispy almond crescent to melt in your mouth. And a life deprived of chocolate chip cookies properly dunked in ice-cold milk simply isn’t worth living.

Some cookies are better than others, of course. Oreos may be America’s favorite cookie, but they just don’t compare to Cameos, Nabisco’s lesser-known cookie, a crispy vanilla creme delight.

That’s why I love this time of year — the holiday cookie season, more than a month of cookie walks, cookie exchanges, cookie plates, cookie baskets and cookie tins.

During cookie season there’s no point in listening to those buff fitness gurus and Oprah’s minions who preach that food is only a means of attaining energy.

Their warnings that emotional cookie-eating may lead to obesity, diabetes, death and — because you are so fat from cookie-binging — the need for an extra pallbearer at your funeral should go unheeded.

Especially if you happen to encounter The Ultimate Cookie — Mom’s Sugar Cookies. They are praised in my family for a perfect combination of sweet, buttery, crisp goodness that’s purely addictive.

I remember watching with great anticipation as Mom rolled the delicious dough into balls and then flattened them into slim circles with the bottom of a water glass covered in sugar. She delicately placed the fragile cookies on a baking sheet and slid them into the oven until the edges, speckled in glittering sweetness, turned slightly golden. Perfect.

It always seemed like Mom knew exactly the right time to bake those cookies. During the most stressful times of my college career — the torment of losing football seasons and pressure-packed final exams — she’d pack cookies in a tin and mail them to my college dorm room, where I’d quickly hide them under my bed. Some things are just too good to share.

But it wasn’t until years after college that Mom’s cookies became more than a tasty treat to lift my spirits.

It was March 2005.

I was sitting at my folks dining room table, poised to chomp one my favorite cookies when Dad sat down and broke the news: “Your mother had a mammogram … they found a lump.”

I stared at the cookie in my hand and cried. My sister cried, too. Mom didn’t move.

Dad gave us the details: Cancer. Caught it early. Surgery, then chemo. The word — cancer — sounds like death. It doesn’t mean death.

I put the cookie back on a plate.

It was probably the first and only time I picked up one of those delicious cookies and didn’t eat it. I’ll never forget that stupid, waste of a cookie.

And I’ll never forget the cookie tin Mom sent me home with that day after she hugged me and said, definitively, that she would beat cancer.

Mom told me not to get overwhelmed with sadness. She said, “Go home, have some cookies and feel better.”

She was right about those cookies — an edible extension of a mother’s love. They did help me feel better.

Now, Mom is cancer-free — has been for five years. She’s a grandma. She also wrote a book, became an elder at church and even got herself a new titanium hip.

But Mom doesn’t bake her special sugar cookies very often anymore.

She says life is good. I don’t need them.

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