I spent the majority of my time tonight baking.
That’s not new, I don’t suppose. I bake treats for all my kids’ lunches every week. Cookies, candies, all of it homemade. Before you think I’m being a martyr or something it’s not that. My kids just seem overly sensitive to something in the store-bought treats. If I make rice-krispie bars they’re fine. Buy them in the store and they’re climbing the walls. It’s that simple.
But this is different. This is Christmas.
My oldest, Abbi, might remember Christmas in my home in Nebraska. While I realize that you might call the holidays there a throwback to a Mad Men era . . . men sitting in the living room talking all day and the women doing all the cooking . . . our homes were different. My Mom made a ton of stuff for Christmas, from cookies to pies to what have you. I don’t call this “her job” because it wasn’t. It was tradition.
If my Mom made tons of stuff . . . my grandma, Lanone, made truckloads. The fact that the Midwest is so cold in the winter, she would bake for weeks and weeks and there would be treats on her back entryway, off the porch, where it was below freezing. Sugar cookies were my favorites. She made chocolate-coated Lincoln logs; pecan sandies; divinity; fudge (God the fudge was good) . . . my Mom was the best pie maker so that was left in her hands.
Growing up, my late wife had similar memories, but they centered around her Mom. Butter softened so that she could carve it into roses. The table was set with placecards and she always made some kind of gourmet meal. She was Martha Stewart before Martha stole everyone’s ideas and got rich off of them.
But this last year has removed so much of those things and made me more than a little melancholy. I made a third pie tonight, then pecan sandies after calling my mom for the recipe. I made molasses/cardamom cookies. I prepped to make sugar cookies and my oldest looked at me saying “why would you do that, Dad? You already made cookies, just take a break! We have 3 pies and cookies that’s enough.”
I paused, considering it. I looked at her and said “I want you guys to have what I had . . . just a little anyway.” My grandma passed away this year. So did Andrea’s Mom and Dad. We’re a two day drive away from my folks and my brothers. The only thing I have to bring some of that home to them is to show them what I had growing up: treats, foods, and all of it with the best intentions in mind. I wasn’t complaining because, like my grandma, I wanted to do this. I never remember hearing her or my mother complain or moan about it.
“That’s a lot of work,” my daughter said. I admitted as much.
“Your Grandma and great-Grandma did it, though I admit . . . they didn’t work a day job then do this, too.”
But this isn’t about treats. It’s about tradition and love and Christmas. This is the house filled with pleasant smells and spices and that reminds me of growing up where the nip in the air bites your nose and reddens your cheeks. As an adult you curse it and as a kid, bundled up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man you adore it.
I don’t know how my kids will remember these days . . . but I don’t want them to think the day centered around their Dad coming home and sitting in front of the television. This is Christmas.
And I want them to make new memories.
Merry Christmas, everyone.