Christmas Cookies

Long before Pinterest could puncture our creative bubble, there was the nativity Christmas cookie cutter set.

I sometimes call Pinterest the dream site: I can only do those projects in my dreams.

Story_squareThe cookie cutter set was like that. The box seduced me with photos of beautiful cookies in the shape of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger. A little piping of frosting, a few sparkles in the right place and we would have a unique nativity set.

And the best part was that we could do this project as a family with everyone helping.

I bought the set.

Yes, I knew we wouldn’t get the cookies quite as perfect as the photos. We had a two-year-old at the time. He’d produce a cute but goofy little cookie.

It was OK.

I forgot to factor in his mother.

I knew we were in trouble when I pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven. Baby Jesus in the manger resembled a toasted marshmallow.

The sheep – and I’d made lots of them – all were blimps. Some had short fat legs but, since you couldn’t tell where the head was, the legs could have been porcupine prickles, too.

The camels’ longer legs had grown together while baking. “Is this a tree?” asked the six-year-old.

The shepherds had morphed into tall planks of wood and kneeling Joseph was now a giant S.

The kids were game, anyway. They slathered on frosting that was too thin so that the blues and oranges dribbled into each other making a muddy brown on the kings.

Well, I thought those were the kings because of the lumps at the top which I identified as crowns. Maybe they were cows, in which case the muddy brown frosting might make more sense.

I had planned to assemble the stable printed on the back of the box but tossed that after our older son frosted an angel as though it were a donkey. I couldn’t see displaying these.

When we were done, with sticky frosting on our fingers and sparkles drifting to the floor, I studied the blobs of cookies. “Well, this didn’t work out quite like I had hoped.”

My husband surveyed the table, surrounded by sets of eager young eyes, and picked up a cookie. “Then we’d better destroy the evidence.”

Advertisements

Those eyes

I’ve heard of husband eyes but hadn’t really experienced kid eyes until the Christmas tree deal.

This eyes thing shows up when someone is sent to a location to look for something and they can’t find it.

Story_squareMy older son, who is now a husband himself, tells me that his wife accuses him of that. This came up after he went looking for a box in a storage room.

“It’s not there,” he told me when he came back. “Although I’m told I have husband eyes so you might want to look.”

I found the box.

But it’s not just the guys.  Our youngest daughter came home from school to ask, “When did you take the Christmas tree down?”

“Three weeks ago,” I said.

“No way.”

Yup. So she pulled her younger brother away from alien attacks in the computer room. “When did Mom take down the Christmas tree?”

He looked up, his eyes wide. “The Christmas tree is down?”

They waited until their father got home to verify this amazing discovery. “Dad, did you notice that Mom took the Christmas tree down?”

He met both their faces with a calm smile and patted our daughter on the shoulder. “Did I notice?” He grinned at them both with that confident look that fathers get when they know the answer. “Did I notice? No.”

Family eyes. They all have it.

The Christmas Pickle

Story_squareLate on Christmas day several years ago, we bundled our family into the car and headed for a ski trip in the Colorado mountains.

The gift-giving had been trimmed back so that we could enjoy this ski outing but my husband wanted to do something special for the family on our travel that evening.

“Let’s stop at that nice steak house on the interstate,” he said.

So we did. They were closed. It was, after all, Christmas day.

Hmmm. We hadn’t thought of that so we continued to the next town and pulled in, thinking the Chinese restaurant there might work well.

Closed.

We were starting to get a clue, finally. But we had five kids in the car and the Christmas cookies were wearing off. They were restless.

“Let’s try a fast-food place.” My husband had set his heart on a special mealtime family gathering but his stomach was growling, too.

Closed.

Grocery stores were closed. Walmart was closed.

We were about to take stock of the energy bars that might have been left in coat pockets when my husband spotted a 7-Eleven convenience store open.

We turned the kids loose. “Find something to eat.”

Because there’s virtually nothing healthy in a snack place like that, the kids were not bound to a balanced meal. They grabbed chips and popcorn and gallons of fountain drinks.

Their parents have felt guilty for years for not having enough foresight to avoid such a disappointment. We wanted to give them a nice steak dinner but instead offered candy bars and peanuts.

But I have been assured by our older son not to worry.

“I got a fistful of dill pickles,” he said. “Best Christmas dinner ever!”

Fading away

SeasonsFreida’s fade into Alzheimer’s -unlike others, perhaps – seemed to take her to warm and cherished places.

Freida lost memory of her husband of 50-plus years and her 11 children. When she also lost memory of the stove burner left on high and glowing red-hot, her family moved her to the local nursing home.

“I want to go home,” became her mantra until her family gave in and made arrangements to allow her to live at home.

“I want to go home” was still her cry even as she sat on her own living room.

Home, I think, was a place deep in her memory.

Her favorite story, one she repeated countless times, involved an incident at her childhood church.

“It was Christmas Eve and the choir was sitting together with the Christmas tree right beside them. “

Her eyes were bright with the memory.

“All the candles on the tree were lit and suddenly the tree caught on fire.”

I calculated that this event happened somewhere around 1915.

Freida chuckled. “The usher ran to the door and grabbed the bucket of drinking water.”

“There was a bucket for drinking water?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said as though I had forgotten to pick up the milk from the store. “With the ladle hanging in the side.”

“Oh, sure” I agreed.  Her memory was vivid.

“Well, that usher grabbed the bucket and ran to the front of the church. He threw the water toward the fire.” She chuckled again. “But he missed the tree and soaked the choir instead. Ladle and all!”

Freida shook her head and chuckled again. “Got the whole choir.”

I waited. She was smiling, her eyes bright with the moment.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Uh, what happened to the fire?” I said.

She seemed to have forgotten me but she shifted her weight as she caught my eye. “Oh, the men carried the tree outside and threw it in a snowdrift.”

Although Freida’s family grieved as her memory faded, she accepted each day with an old story told with a laugh.

And I still miss her.

Dad’s perfect gift

Story_squareI remember the Christmas where Mom found the perfect gift for Dad. It was so perfect that he got two of: the one Mom bought and the one he bought five days before Christmas.

As Mom put it, “He can just have two of them then.”

She wasn’t smiling when she said it.

That was Dad’s MO: when he needed something, he bought it.

Buying gifts for Dad was always a challenge. He didn’t care about fun gifts. He wanted practical. For a while, we rotated gifts between wallets and pocket knives because he was sure to lose one between birthdays.

But my husband stumbled on an even more perfect gift.

Matt assured me that he would take of Dad’s Christmas gift one year after he found cases of antifreeze on sale at the parts store.

He didn’t even bother to wrap the case. He popped on a bow, wrote Dad’s name on the cardboard and let Dad cut it open. With a gift pocket knife, I suspect.

Dad was thrilled.

At a case of antifreeze.

It is no wonder that I never scored a great gift for Dad.

And the best part of the antifreeze? Matt then shared how great a price he’d gotten on the case. Dad couldn’t have asked for anything better.

That was the year I quit buying gifts for Dad. I was obviously clueless.

Cookie Cutter Dreams

Long before Pinterest could puncture my wanna-be creative bubble, there was the nativity Christmas cookie cutter set.

I sometimes call Pinterest the dream site: I can only do those projects in my dreams.

The cookie cutter set was like that. The box seduced me with photos of beautiful cookies in the shape of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus in a manger. A little piping of frosting, a few sparkles in the right place and we would have a unique nativity set.

And the best part was that we could do this project as a family with everyone helping.

I bought the set.

Yes, I knew we wouldn’t get the cookies quite as perfect as the photos. We had a two-year-old at the time. He’d produce a cute but goofy little cookie.

It was OK.

I forgot to factor in his mother.

I knew we were in trouble when I pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven. Baby Jesus in the manger more resembled a toasted marshmallow.

The sheep – and I’d made lots of them – all were blimps. Some had short fat legs but, since you couldn’t tell where the head was, the legs could have been porcupine prickles, too.

The camels’ longer legs had grown together while baking. “Is this an elm tree?” asked the six-year-old.

The shepherds had morphed into tall planks of wood and kneeling Joseph was now a giant S.

The kids were game, anyway. They slathered on frosting that was too thin so that the blues and oranges dribbled into each other making a muddy brown on the kings.

Well, I thought those were the kings because of the lumps at the top which I identified as crowns. Maybe they were cows, in which case the muddy brown might make more sense.

I had planned to assemble the stable printed on the back of the box but tossed that after our older son frosted a angel as though it were a donkey. I was not displaying these.

When we were done, with sticky frosting on our fingers and sparkles drifting to the floor, I studied the blobs of cookies. “Well, this didn’t work out quite like I had hoped.”

My husband surveyed the table, surrounded by sets of eager young eyes, and picked up a cookie. “Then we’d better destroy the evidence.”