" ...Christmas cookies without sprinkles
are like raisins without wrinkles,
and like sleigh bells without tinkles ..."
The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher
Since my last post, I've either been feeling puny (as in running a low grade fever and feeling achy everywhere, including the insides of my eyelids) or poopy (as in sad, blue, whiney, unmerry). However, in the last few days I've felt good enough to rival a Christmas elf on sugar overload. I don't want to jinx things but I think I may just be ready for Christmas by the time it gets here.
I spent most of today making cookies - the rolled kind that still have to be decorated. I may get dough made up for some drop cookies I can make tomorrow. Yes, there is still a light dusting of flour and powdered sugar on the counter tops, and yes, the sink is still full of dirty baking utensils, but I feel like I have made great progress. The key, I realized half-way through the cookie-enhanced afternoon is that I only made one - O-N-E - batch of each dough that needed to be rolled and cut before baking, cooling and decorating. In year's past I've made at least 2, often 3, of the family favorites - gingerbread men, sugar cookies. I think I may be on to something. Doing one batch of each makes the baking marathon doable. Alas, I do not have many to give away except to my children, unbelievers who have discussed behind my back that I've "forgotten" where I put the recipes and so I won't be baking this year. I feel certain that discussion was followed by my son (the younger) reminding my daughter (the eldest) that it will be her responsibility to take care of me in the event I lose all my faculties because she had the privilege of being born first. I know they have this discussion on a recurring basis because my son has pointed out to me more than once, his good fortune to have been born last. *
As I sifted and stirred I tried to recall preparations of Christmases when I was a child. Dad bought the tree and hung the lights. We had some decorations that were pulled out every year. I remember hanging glittery glass balls on the tree., that aluminum icicles were to be hung one strand at a time. The Patty Star was, perhaps, the most memorable of all decorations.
I don't have a memory of my mom baking cookies. For that matter I don't remember decorated cookies being a big deal. Mom's forte lay in the roasting of a plump turkey or succulent roast. So I wonder when and where I developed this Traumatic Baking Syndrome (TBS). I probably baked my first batch of sugar cookies when Weneki was still a baby, then expanded my repertoire in the years that followed. In the midst of my deepest depression, baking for weeks before Christmas was part of my therapy. Gingerbread men became a Christmas tradition that my children still expect.
One of my best Christmas presents a few years ago was Kitchen Aid mixer. Every year at this time when I pull the cover off the mixer I remember my friends the Belchers. We will be forever linked, I believe, by the holiday traditions we created together for their son, my "charge" Robert. One year, when he was only a few years old Robert and I had a pajama/baking day. In his navy blue thermal jammies Robert sat on the counter surrounded by the butter, sugar and flour. I turned my back to get the eggs. When I turned around, the little boy dressed in blue, the counter and the air around him was adrift in flour. With one hand still in the bag and the other gleefully tossing flour into the air, Robert squealed, "Look Mer Mer, it's snowing!" It was one of those split second decisions a nanny/parent sometimes needs to make. Whether to blow a gasket at the mess, or grab a camera. "Yes, indeed, my little man," I responded as I clicked a photo, "it is snowing!" Did I mention we live in Florida and the child had only seen snow once or twice in his short life.
Perhaps the reason I have lost my enthusiasm for holiday baking is that there are no children to help. Martha Stewart can turn a snowflake cookie into a work of art with royal icing and silver dragrees, but she can't match the beauty of a cookie piled high with multi-colored sugar by tiny hands. And she can't turn flour into snow.
Today I'm grateful for memories of holiday's past. I'm grateful for children who put the merry in Christmas.
Wishing for you a Christmas miracle,
*Just so everybody knows. I put my hands right on the recipes, because a couple of years ago I had the foresight to re-type all my Christmas recipes onto un-stained, un-fingerprinted with icing festive paper and bind them all together. I followed up that bit of brilliance by putting the book in its rightful place among the other cookbooks. If I would follow this example with my keys, my wallet, my camera, my shoes and the other items I lose on a regular basis, my children would not have anything to worry about. Okay, maybe they'd still worry.