My dad and I still talk about “the event” that happened on our road trip with my mom about forty years ago. My mind holds this memory in a section of my brain called “humorous mom stories.”
But not my dad. His mind files it alongside other stories about “moments that changed my life.”
I don’t remember where we were headed, or why I was the only one of their children with them. But as we traveled some now-forgotten highway, we opened a package that held two rows of cookies. I took a cookie from the top of one row, handed it to my father as he drove. I then pulled another from that same row, and handed it to my mother. I then took one, ate it, and grabbed another.
By now, my father was ready for a second cookie, so I handed him one. Since my mother didn’t want another one, I grabbed one more for myself before closing the package and handing it to my mother in the passenger seat.
Now the package I handed to her still contained two rows of cookies, only one of those rows was now half empty, while the other remained full.
As she took the pack of cookies from my hands, she changed her mind about having another one. I watched as she opened the package and grabbed a cookie from the wrong row.
“Don’t take a cookie from that row,” I warned. “That’s the wrong row!”
She moved her hand back toward the package, placed the cookie she had taken back in its spot, took another from the proper row, and asked, “How was that the wrong row?”
I responded with my belief that I assumed the world shared: “Because one row’s been eaten from. The other hasn’t!”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
Our journey continued as it had before. At least it did for my dad and me.
But about fifteen miles down the road, I watched as my mother’s hand moved toward the cookies with the speed and precision of a striking snake. She tore open the package and pulled out a cookie from the forbidden row and shouted, “No, I’m not sorry!”
That was the moment I realized that it’s possible to take a cookie from the second row before you’ve finished the first. I also learned that just because I believe something strongly doesn’t mean others will, or should, share that belief.
But my dad?
All he remembers from that event is that my mother was warned: “Don’t take a cookie from that row!”
That she received an explanation: “You should always finish one row of cookies in a package before starting a new row.”
Yet, she persisted.
And that’s only one of the reasons he’s lived the last forty years with her as happily as he did those first twenty-five.