I was five or six years old the year our neighbor lady asked our family to join them at their school for their children's annual Christmas program.
I didn't know what to expect, but with a name like Crystal Valley School, I knew it had to be very special.
That evening Rachel came by and we got into her big station wagon, and we were off. The program held my attention the entire time. The singing was lovely and I couldn't take my eyes off all those girls in their pretty red dresses. They all looked so happy as they sang in beautiful harmony. Later when others came on stage dressed as angels, complete with halos, my eyes started to hurt because I forgot to blink, not wanting to miss a single second of this wonderful evening.
When the program was over we were invited to stay and enjoy the refreshments. As we approached the tables laden with festive treats, I was sure I had never seen anything prettier. And then I saw it. A platter filled with beautifully decorated bell shaped cookies. Everything else on the table kind of vanished from my sight as I zeroed in on those. I wanted one, so badly. I might never be able to have a pretty red dress, or be an angel with a halo in a play, but I could have one of those beautiful cookies.
Mom got a little paper plate for me and offered to give me various treats, but I shook my head no to all of them. I was thrilled that there were still plenty of the bell shaped cookies left by the time the line had advanced far enough and they were right there in front of me.
"Are you sure you want one of these?" Mom asked as I made my request known.
I had never been more sure of anything, and soon one of those beautiful cookies was on my plate. I didn't take anything else, and carefully carried my plate as we made our way over to a table to sit and visit as we ate.
I admired the cookie for a little while and then I took a bite. I was bitterly disappointed. It was dry, hard, and almost flavorless.
To this day I avoid pretty cutout Christmas cookies, and I always, always remember that night. The wonder of the program, and the disappointment of how a cookie so beautiful could be so ugly.