I wrote this probably about thirty years ago. My children are all grown now with their own little cherubs. I searched for this online, and found it, since it has been published, a long time ago. At this busy time of the year, I wanted to get back in touch with the things that matter, amidst the hurrying and scurrying and our expectations. I share this with anyone who might find some inspiration therein:
I must have been daydreaming. I saw myself in a gingham apron surrounded by worshipful, apple-cheeked children and the aroma of bread and cinnamon.
It’s those women’s magazines. The Christmas issues get to me every time! All those lavish gingerbread houses, and the Christmas decorations painstakingly fashioned from discarded milk jugs and juice cans that have been saved, supposedly, all year long just for Christmas.
I succumb to their lure only once a year when Christmas baking, decorations, parties, and even clever gift wrapping become equated with love (in my mind or the magazines,’ I’m not sure which but I have my suspicions).
So I pore over those Christmas issues like a college freshman opening brand-new geology and sociology text books, with a mixture of dread and excitement.
Oh no. They won’t get me to stay up till midnight finishing a Victorian gingerbread house just because I love my kids. One of them would probably sit on it, anyway.
And I am not interested in putting together that wreath with 28,300 gum wrappers folded into intricate patterns and spray-painted gold, even though I could surely come up with the correct number of gum wrappers by cleaning the boys’ room. That’s not love, that’s obsession.
But the daydream persists. It is, after all, Christmas; and these are, after all, little children. I am responsible for their memories! Do I want them to tell my grandchildren about how I stopped off at the bakery on Christmas Eve? Are you kidding? I want them to wax poetic as they reminisce about the smells of evergreen and cloves and the taste of homemade goodies. These are warm manifestations of their mother’s love, right?
The daydream returns. I see a patient, sweet mother in the kitchen with her children. They are making Christmas cookies together. One apple-cheeked boy has a smudge of flour on his button nose. Dad comes home and the scene before him fills his heart with joy. Now isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
In an attempt to play the daydream out in real life I announce, “We’re going to make Christmas cookies!”
My number one son says, “Aw, Mom, I want to go to Roger’s; he’s got video games.”
The rest of the children shout, “Goodie!” with so much glee that I wonder if they shouldn’t be locked out of the kitchen.
I get out the flour. I get Christopher out of the flour. I get the flour out of Christopher’s hands. I ask Michael to get the flour off the floor.
I get out the cookie cutters. I wash the playdough off the cookie cutters. Jason gets the rolling pin from the sandbox.
Finally we have the dough mixed. Half of it, however, has “mysteriously” disappeared.
Christopher holds up a gob of dough, “Can I eat this?”
I sigh, “You may as well.”
He says, “Why?”
Jason rolls the dough. I answer the phone.
Christopher asks, “Why do I have to eat this?”
Michael says, “Mom, he’s not letting me have a turn!”
The baby cries. I go to change her.
In the kitchen, I hear the kind of commotion that makes mothers want to slip out of the back door.
I take a deep breath and go back.
I see raw cookies everywhere. Some are even on the cookie sheet, a few even cut with cookie cutters. Apparently that wasn’t creative enough—the remainder have been formed my hand into oddly shaped monstrosities.
“This is a snake!”
“This is a monster!”
“This is Jabba the Hut!”
And I was going to wrap these gifts from our kitchen in gold foil and merrily deliver them to the neighbors.
I abandon all plans except for making it through the evening.
Frosting time has arrived and I’m gone again, putting the baby to bed. My three-year-old is following me around with that original piece of dough, “Is it good for me if I eat this?”
I decide that if I take out my contact lenses it will soften the shock of what I’ll see when I return to the kitchen. I take another deep breath and plunge back in. When I left we had mixed several colors of frosting. Now all of the cookies were being frosted with one color—a grayish green—which is, I am informed, “what you get when they’re all mixed together.”
I am weary of well-doing. I rush the kids off to their beds and clean up.
Oh well, I can always stay up until midnight making banana bread for the neighbors.
Finally it’s quiet. I look at those magazines again. Obviously their test kitchens don’t include children. That would be a real test kitchen.
Three-year-old Christopher calls from the darkness. He wants a drink. I bring him into the kitchen. He puts his arms around my neck and asks, “Did you see my cookies?”
I tiredly nod, “Yes.”
He says, “My Mary?”
I look at the grayish blobs where he points.
“I made Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus.”
I look again and begin to see the forms shaped by his pudgy hands.
“Yes, I see, Christopher…they’re wonderful.”
We give each other a goodnight hug.
I put him to bed and come back out and throw out those magazines.
© 1987 Kathleen “Casey” Null (Petersen) Bookcraft, Inc.