It’s Christmas and I’m missing my friend Anne. Last year about this time, Anne spent an afternoon in my kitchen teaching me to make her “Aunt Tibby’s Shortbread Cookies”. Now, she’s moved to Prince Edward Island. She’s Anne of the Island.
I thought I might miss Anne less today by spending a little time sharing her recipe and a few photos from that fund day we cooked together last year. In writing about Anne’s recipe, I also found myself thinking about what makes a friendship last.
Anne is the very best kind of friend.
Ours is a friendship that is tried, true and very rich in shared context.We’ve known each other our whole lives and grew up just around the corner in a dreamy little New Brunswick town called St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. As soon as we could toddle between our homes to play, we did. When we started school I stopped at her back door everyday to walk there with her – in the morning, at lunch and back again. We skipped one way and dilly-dallied the other. We picked apples from a neighbour’s tree in fall and stopped at the penny candy store when we had a nickel to spend. We went skating at the rink on Friday nights and sledding on the courthouse hill all the other long dark snowy days of winter. We rode our bicycles all over town in spring and fall. We earned badges in Brownies and Girl Guides and played on every kind of sports team. In college we savoured a few long summer days off – with my grandfather – on his fishing boat – slowly cruising through the tiny islands in our corner of the Bay of Fundy.
Despite all our togetherness, we aren’t really much alike.
Anne’s got a beautiful voice. I couldn’t carry a tune in a basket. She’s a performer. I’m more of an appreciator. I’ve always admired and enjoyed her talents. She has an iron clad memory and an ability to mimic and to tell great jokes and stories. If I don’t make lists and write things down, they’re gone. She thinks I’m the daring one but when I’ve watched her sing in front of hundreds of people, I think she seriously underestimates herself. No matter our differences we’ve always had each others backs. Brothers, sisters, bullies and gossips were no match for the loyalty of our friendship.
We went to different colleges and lived most of our adult lives in different cities but, we’ve always stayed in touch.
This past 12 years were special. I had “my Anne” only 20 minutes away in Cochrane, Alberta (I’m in Calgary). We enjoyed this dozen years of popping in for visits, of tootling around the small town shops of Cochrane, of baking together, of driving to nearby Banff to check out a restaurant or even the four hours to Jasper National Park to go camping together when our children were little and our husbands were too busy. We most especially loved sharing Christmas Eve together with our families.
Now Anne’s back in the Maritimes.
She’s happily ensconced in Prince Edward Island. She’s my Anne of the Island. We talk from Calgary to Charlottetown by phone. We email and Facebook. I’m very happy for her to be closer to family in the Maritimes but, I feel a part of my family – my Christmas – is missing this year. Still, I know I’m blessed to have such a friend, even if she’s far away.
I realize that she’s still here – in my heart – always.
I know we’ll always care enough to drop a line or to pick up the phone. Our friendship will always last by just taking care of it like the precious thing it is.
So, tonight I’m pausing in gratitude.
I’m counting the 50 plus years I’ve known Anne in my blessings. I wish you all a friend so good and true. With such a friend, no matter what life serves up you really can savour it all. And before the end of this Christmas Day 2015, here’s a little bit of Anne that I can share with you. Here is Anne’s wonderful shortbread cookie recipe. I know when I make them alone now, I’ll always treasure that day we made them together.
Anne’s Aunt Tibby’s Shortbread Cookie Recipe
My husband is missing both Anne and the big box of tasty shortbread cookies she always made for him. Anne uses the tines of a fork to prick the cookies on top 3 times and give them a traditional Scottish look. It’s amazing how something with so few ingredients can taste so good. Proof once again that butter is a truly great ingredient.
1 cup sugar
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
Cream the butter and sugar well (start with cold butter and beat it until its truly creamy – this might take 10 minutes).
Add the flour, one cup at a time and beat until smooth.
Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness (depending on how you like it).
Cut out the cookies, lift them with a spatula to a cookie sheet and bake in a slow oven (300 degrees Farenheit) for 20 (if 1/4 inch thick) to 25 minutes (if 1/2 inch thick) or until light golden brown.
Store in a glass or tin container and enjoy with a good cup of tea.