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After I helped her get in her harvest one Halloween night, Mrs. Levi told me about meeting her husband and how tough it was when he was called to fight in World War I. When I left, I promised I would be back to help when I could and would make sure I came back the next Halloween.
That was my senior year, so I graduated the following spring. Throughout that year, I often went over to help Mrs. Levi. In the winter, I made sure her walk was clear so she wouldn’t fall. One job I loved was knocking down icicles. They would build up where the roof channeled the melting snow. They would get big, and she was concerned the weight on the roof would tear her old house apart.
She was afraid to break them herself in case they fell toward her. If they did, she couldn’t move fast enough to get out of the road. I would throw snowballs at the ones higher up. But for the big ones, I would take a shovel and swing it through them like a lightsaber cutting through crystal.
In the springtime, I helped prepare her garden and trimmed her apple trees. Her only income was her social security check, and she relied heavily on her harvest to reduce her food bill. She liked to plant her garden herself, but when she finished, she would call and let me know. Then I would go over and put her ditch pump in place so she could water the little seeds.
Mrs. Levi always had her cookie jar full of cookies. In the fall and winter, she would add some hot chocolate to go with them. In the spring and summer, there was always cold milk. As we ate, she would share more stories about her youth.
One day when I stopped by to help, a lady was there. She was Mrs. Levi’s cousin, Leah. I had heard many stories about Leah, so it was fun to meet her. When I told her that Mrs. Levi had talked about her, Leah laughed.
“I have heard a few stories about you, too, young man,” she said.
It was the end of summer, and I had come to help Mrs. Levi get in her corn and other vegetables that were ready. I needed to head off to college soon and wanted to make sure she was taken care of. After I helped with some things, the three of us sat down to some cookies and cold milk.
“Still got your old cookie jar, I see,” Leah said.
Mrs. Levi nodded. “It means a lot to me, being the only present William could afford when we got married. And I have always made sure there were cookies in it.”
Leah smiled. “Those cookies are what drew me to you when you came to live with my family. The friendship followed that.”
“The sad thing is, none of my children like the old cookie jar,” Mrs. Levi said. “It’s old, faded, and cracked. They bought me a new fancy one, and I use it when they come. But after they leave, I put the cookies back into my old jar.”
“I think that its years of experience in holding cookies makes them taste better,” I said.
Mrs. Levi smiled. “I do, too.”
That was the last visit before I went to college, but I promised to come back to visit on Halloween as usual. But I never got the chance. A couple of weeks before Halloween, my mother called and informed me that Mrs. Levi had passed away. Instead of going home for Halloween, I went home a couple of weeks early for the funeral.
I saw Leah at the funeral, and afterward, she came to see me. “I’m glad you came,” she said. “I have something for you.”
She left briefly and came back with the old cookie jar. “Her kids just planned to throw it away, so I saved it for you,” she said. “I knew you would appreciate it.”
I smiled and thanked her. Even without Mrs. Levi there to fill it, I would never forget the wonderful taste of the cookies and the memories of an incredible lady.