Sunday dawned bright and clear and just a little cool. Perfect weather for baking, Jim thought. With Blair and Becky still asleep, he showered, shaved and was on his second cup of coffee when Blair descended. "Good morning, Sunshine," he greeted, handing Blair a cup.
Blair took a long swallow and sighed. "Ah, that's good." He tipped his head up to get a kiss. "You're up early."
"Yeah. I didn't like how your car sounded when you pulled in yesterday. I went down to look at it." Jim hesitated. "I know it's cookie making day, but I'd really like to get Dave to check it out. He can take it this morning."
"Go, go. Today will be a snap compared to yesterday." Blair looked down at himself. "Give me ten to put myself together and you can take off. Thanks, babe."
Becky was apparently not a morning person. She accepted a piece of toast for breakfast, then pulled out her 4-H project papers. "Oh, no," she groaned, "this pignoli cookie recipe has cinnamon in it."
"What wrong with cinnamon?" Blair asked and then his eyes widened. "Are you allergic? Your dad didn't say."
"No…," she said, shaking her head, then lowered her voice to a whisper. "I just don't like the taste," she confessed, like it was an embarrassing secret.
Blair matched her whisper. "I'll tell you a secret. You don't have to put it in there."
"But it's in the recipe!" she objected.
"Following a recipe is important, especially in baking where measuring is crucial to success. But it's not an essential ingredient, like flour or eggs. We can use another flavor, or we can leave it out altogether. What flavors do you like?" Becky shrugged. "Hmm, there are extracts, like vanilla, almond, orange--"
"I think orange would go great with the pine nuts. Can I tell you another secret?" Becky nodded. "Your Uncle Jim loves cinnamon. His favorite cookies are snickerdoodles."
Becky wrinkled her nose. "That's Dad's favorite, too."
"Not surprising since they're brothers. Maybe we should make two batches of cookies -- pignoli and snickerdoodles?" Becky nodded again. "You can take half of each home with you, and we'll keep half. Now, let's go shopping."
Although the recipes for the cookies were different, the method for making them was the same for both: shape the dough into small balls, then roll them in a coating of either pine nuts or cinnamon sugar. The first batch of pignoli cookies was baking and Blair and Becky were forming the snickerdoodles into balls. Becky spoke up as she was rolling the balls in the cinnamon mixture.
"Uncle Blair, how come Uncle Jim and Dad are so different?"
"What do you mean, honey?"
"Well, Uncle Jim is so cool. He goes camping and hiking and he's funny. And when I want to do something, he's always willing to do it. Dad just goes to work and is so boring. They're the same age, practically. How come they're so different?"
Taken aback, Blair was quiet for a moment. "You think people born in the same generation should behave the same?"
Becky rolled her eyes. "Well, yeah. We've been studying it at school. You know, Baby Boomers, Generation X and all that. Grandpa's generation thinks following rules is really important and worry about money because they lived through the Depression. And my generation think rules are stupid and having family and friends is more important than money."
"And your dad's generation?"
She shrugged. "Kind of in between. Uncle Jim didn't care about the same things as Grandpa, so he ran away to the Army. But he thinks some rules are good because he's a cop." She sighed. "But Dad is more like Grandpa -- all he does is work all the time and spout rules. He's so uptight."
Blair chuckled. "Where'd you learn that word? You sound more like my mom than a 10-year-old." Just then, the oven timer dinged. Ah, saved by the bell, he thought. He pulled out the pignoli cookies and moved them to a cooling rack. "Let's get the batch of snickerdoodles in, then we can discuss your question."
By the time they'd finished baking the rest of the cookies and sampling the pignoli, he'd decided Becky's issues were both smaller and larger than she perceived them. Smaller, because many of her statements were based on faulty premises which could easily be disproved. Larger, because she was beginning to view her parents with a critical eye, and they were coming up short, so logical arguments weren't going to work.
Blair could sympathize. When he'd been Becky's age, he well remembered how simply hearing Naomi's voice was like nails on a chalkboard -- nothing she said or did was right in his eyes. It took growing up to put that phase of his life into perspective. He realized he had no satisfactory answers for Becky. If anyone had tried to explain what was happening to his younger self, he would have laughed in their face, superior in his knowledge of the world. Trying to figure out how to approach Becky's situation had him stumped.
Fortunately, Jim chose that moment to arrive home. Perhaps sensing something was amiss, he used his interrogation skills to gently question Becky. Once he had the whole story, Jim laughed.
"Of course, I'm the cool uncle," he said. "That goes without saying. When you spend time with me, I don't scold your manners or give you a curfew. But I want you to think about this, Bec. When we get together, it's because I've specifically arranged my schedule to see you. So, you never feel like I don't have time for you." He poured a glass of milk for himself and put some cookies on a plate. "I'll bet you don't know your dad used to be a boy scout. He did like hiking and camping; I expect he still does. Maybe he just needs an invitation. Have you asked him?" Becky shook her head.
"Becky, your dad loves you so much. Even if he hated doing those things, he'd do them anyway if it would make you happy. Maybe you could give him a chance?" He bit into a snickerdoodle and moaned in pleasure. "These are fantastic. Did you know they're my favorite?" he asked her.
Becky threw herself into Jim's arms and gave him a large hug. Blair smiled as he watched two generations of Ellisons close a gap.
Blair gave Becky a goodbye hug, then left to pick up groceries. He hoped while he was gone Jim would have a chance to talk to Steven. As he carried two bags through the loft door, he was pleased to see Jim was alone, making a fresh pot of coffee. "Well, how'd it go?"
"They're meeting us next Sunday. Becky wants to take him to where you picked the pinecones. We'll hike around and then go out to dinner."
"That's great!" Blair said as he put the bags on the counter, then shook his head. "I've got to admit I was seriously out of my depth there. I'm sure glad you came home when you did."
Jim pulled down two cups and filled them, handing one to Blair. "Uh, babe," Jim said hesitantly, "I have a confession. I was in the hall for a while, listening to you two before I came in."
Blair huffed out a laugh. "I knew all those hours sitting in the truck doing surveillance would pay off. Well done, Detective!" He pulled the fixings for stir-fry out of the bags, then handed the rest of the groceries to Jim to put away. "So, now that you've impressively resolved this family issue, what's next on your schedule?" he asked as he started chopping vegetables.
"A nice, quiet dinner, a little canoodling on the couch as we watch the Jags, doing some in-depth surveillance later on…" Jim answered, waggling his eyebrows.
"Ah, Detective Ellison is not only a skilled investigator, but he's intelligent as well. He has the best ideas."
Blair noticeably increased the speed of his chopping and Jim pulled out the dishes to set the table. They shared a smile as they look forward to a quiet, contented evening.