elderly · family

The Cookie Rule

One of my brothers attended Cornell  — ever heard of it? While he was there, my uncle visited to adjudicate at the law school’s moot court competition. My brother snuck up to the bench where my uncle would be hearing the arguments and left a little note at his spot on the dais —

The following case may be relevant to today’s proceedings —

P— vs State of New Jersey (1937) in which the “cookie rule” was established.

The Cookie Rule clearly states that cookies must be consumed in the following proportion:  two plain cookies for every filled one.

I remember my uncle telling my father the story and roaring with laughter. My grandfather, my father, my uncle — they all love to laugh.

And I love to hear it.

But the cookie rule was new to me at that point. My mother never instituted it, although my father had grown up with it. His mother had come up with a way to control cookie consumption — two plain cookies for every filled.

All this flashed through my mind yesterday when I brought my father his “sweet” to eat after lunch.

My father definitely has a sweet tooth, and every meal (except breakfast) is followed by something sweet. After lunch, it’s usually a cookie, and after dinner, it’s usually ice cream.

I had picked up a package of Oreos at the store because they were on sale. I know, I know — Oreos are basically death between two wafers — but he likes them so I buy them occasionally.

Okay, I confess — I like them, too.

So, I brought this brand-new package of Oreos to him and said, “Dad, would you like a cookie?”

His eyes lit up. “I think I would,” he said.

I peeled back the flap to reveal the treasure, and he reached in to take one.

“Could I have two?” he asked — and suddenly, I saw in front of me a little boy asking permission to break a rule. His eyes sparkled as he looked up at me hopefully.

“Yes, you can have two,” I said.

He smiled and pulled two cookies out of the package.

Douglas MacArthur said, “You are remembered for the rules you break.”

I’m sure my father will be remembered for much more than this, but I’ll treasure that look he had as he took two filled cookies.


13 thoughts on “The Cookie Rule

  1. That is the most charming tale ….. I am so glad you conspired with his rule–breaking and I truly hope that he cherished every nibble and crunch of those Oreos. By the way my father was a great advocate of moderation in all things …. I am certain that goes for Oreos and that two is still pretty moderate 😉

    1. My father is also a moderate person — so, yes, two is still moderate. If he weren’t, he would say, “Why don’t you just leave that whole package here?” Then I would be faced with a real dilemma.

      This changing of the roles, where I move from daughter to parenting-my-own-parent, is uncomfortable at best. But conspiratorial breaking of rules makes it a little more fun.

      1. My fondest memories of my father were the consipiracies we shared. I cannot imagine what it might have been like to have to adopt the role of his parent … you have my absolute admiration.

  2. My recollection is that we were limited to 3 cookies, period. In our house, it seems the rule is that “cookies must be consumed in multiples of 3” (regardless of whether they’re plain or filled). My death certificate will probably read “death by Oreos.” I definitely inherited that need for something sweet after meals, and live by it. Thanks for “treating” Dad.

    1. I sort of remember just sneaking however many cookies I wanted. I never was very good at rules.

      And yes, I also inherited that sweet tooth — although I don’t put sugar on my grapefruit or cottage cheese. Remember how he did that?

      1. If I’m going to have sugar with my breakfast, it will take the form of a donut or cinnamon roll … but NEVER on my grapefruit (and certainly not on my cottage cheese). And, yes, I remember that quite well and it never occurred to me that other people DIDN’T put sugar on their cottage cheese (which — if you remember — was always served with chili … sort of like Swiss cheese with split pea soup)! Good times.

      2. I forgot about cottage cheese with chili! Maybe I should try that with him sometime because he seems to have lost his taste for chili.

  3. My son’s rule on a serving of cookies was the number he could carry between his thumb and middle finger. I think you father should have had 4 plain cookies and then neither of you would be breaking the cookie ruling. Thanks for sharing your delightful story.

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