Commentary – Cookie cutters and Pearl’s miracle

Chris Clegg

It is no surprise that simple items such as pictures or historical artifacts, or even smells, can trigger a person’s memory.

Such was the case for me when I visited Triangle Hall May 2. The host Pioneer Treshermans Association displayed several artifacts and invited people to share memories.

I especially took note of four tin cookie cutters. They were shaped in a circle (to make doughnuts, and various jagged edges for decoration.

It immediately took me back to my childhood years. Mom had four similar cookie cutters in her kitchen but each was shaped to represent a suit in a deck of cards: clubs, hearts, diamonds and spades. I remembered my mother flattening a huge ball of dough, then using the cutters make cookies to spoil her six children. Dad too! After the first set of cookies were cut, mom rolled what was left into another ball of dough, and repeated the procedure until she was finished. About four dozen scrumptious works of art were created with loving hands!

I remember how delicious those cookies were! What a memory!

Then there was the Sears Christmas catalogue. What kid in the 1960s and 1970s did not grow up waiting for the catalogue to arrive in late November or early December? Then flipping through the pages, then wishing for weeks that Santa would come through!

The memory is a powerful entity. I find the older I get, the more interested I become in history. This reminded me why. Simple things can trigger immensely powerful memories that bring smiles to my face of a more happier and innocent time. Don’t we all wish we could all be a kid again where the biggest worry was how long it would take those cookies to bake?

The best example I can give you of the power of memory occurred many years ago. On March 2, 2008 Bessie Roffey turned 111 years old at J.B. Wood Continuing Care in High Prairie. At the time she was Alberta’s oldest citizen. Other than Bessie’s birthday, something occurred that day that was amazing!

I arrived early for the celebration. I was promptly warned Bessie was not in good mood. It was explained to me that staff put her to bed early the night before in preparation for the big day. She woke up cranky. Very cranky! Extremely cranky! Super cranky! Get my drift? Apparently, she was out of her routine.

Bessie was complaining. Bitterly. She did not want any part of this celebration. Despite the best efforts of any staff, no one could calm her. This party was ending toward a disaster!

Until Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen arrived! We said our hellos and I warned her about Bessie.

“What’s wrong?” Calahasen asked, so I told her.

Pearl went up to Bessie, sat down, put her arm around her, and within 30 seconds Bessie was laughing. She was joyful the rest of the day. A complete transformation had occurred. What the heck happened?

I could not wait to talk to Pearl. What did she do? It goes something like this: I don’t remember the exact quotes.

“Simple,” Pearl said. “I just asked Bessie if she remembered her birthday when she was a little girl!’

Bessie’s memory immediately took her back to a happy time and she completely forgot about the current day.

“It’s not hard,” said Pearl. “Just get their mind off what is making them so sad and get them to refocus on something else.”

Pearl truly understood people and human nature. No wonder many liked her so much as a “people person” and not an MLA.

I encourage people to visit museums. You never know what item might trigger a similar memory to bring joy to your day.

Good luck!

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