I’ve had a difficult time getting into the holidays this year. Since I’ve been an adult, my Christmas spirit has been a little slow to take hold. Maybe it’s because I no longer wake up to mountains of gifts, check to see if Santa ate his cookies, and can’t lie to someone about having woken up to him putting gifts under the tree. I tried that one on Janie and she caught on pretty much right away.
I went shopping with my mom last weekend and managed to find something for most everyone on my list. I started to feel the glimmer of holiday joy with each swipe of my credit card. By the end of the day, my cheeks were rosy and I’d purchased several unnecessary Christmas decorations for myself. This weekend we bought a tree and tonight we bedazzled it with lights and argued about why Janie can’t put that goddamn beanie baby bear on the tree, so stop arguing already. Soon after, we moved on to watch more football and Carson took up residence under the branches for a long winter’s nap.
Yesterday I met up with up with my mom, sister and good friend, Dana, for our annual cookie baking day. It’s a long affair that usually ends with hordes of cookies, but only after a run to Starbucks, a few digs through my mother’s shoe boxes full of recipes collected over the last 20 years, fighting that results in my mother dropping the f-bomb and some questionable doughs being tossed in the trash. Last year we placed bets on how long it might take be before my mother actually started making a recipe, because she likes to dally. My sister bet on noon and I settled for 2pm the following day. This year I placed my bet early, as we awaited arrival of my mom and her trunk full of flour and other baking staples. I surmised she’d start baking at 4pm next year. I was only slightly off.
My mother arrived over an hour late with her share of the supplies and some new uniforms (halo headbands for us and a sassy red hat for her). After a quick drive to Starbucks for caffeine to get us through the morning, we assumed our stations and started assembling recipes. I began with spritz and after several attempts at using my new spritzer, swore up a storm and frustrated my mother with my unchristian behavior. We got going with my sister’s older spritzer and were on our way to a pile of delicious cookies that were better than ever. Later, Dana drove me to the liquor store to get my mom some Creme De Menthe that she never ended up using, and I was distracted by the gift display. I made a few quick Christmas gift purchases along with a little something for myself to take the edge off of spending 12 hours with my family in a place where knives were readily available and was out the door with bags filled with booze in record time.
There were few incidents causing my mother to swear this year, and I was becoming concerned that the holidays were not going to be the same without her muttering even one profanity. I was saved, however, after she’d spent two hours arguing about, digging out, losing, blaming me for hiding, re-writing and finally starting to assemble a recipe for some Italian ball cookies that she hated the last time she’d made them. She turned to me and whispered, “I just want to make my fucking cookies!” And wandered away to zest a lemon.
Shortly before this I had noticed a small crack in her exterior when she told Dana that if the cookies she had in the oven turned out flat because Dana kept opening the door to peek, there would be hell to pay. Maybe out of fear, or maybe out of necessity, Dana cut out early for a “date.” We let her know that baking day wasn’t for quitters, and when she apologized and promised to be back the following day for her share of the cookies, I let her know that she would find them scattered in the street. This day is not for the weary or faint of heart. If you bake with us, you bake hard and long and you like it.
I left at 9pm with a bag filled with peppermint bark, Greek thumb print cookies, Linzer torts, and an unusually large amount of chocolate chip cookies my mother made despite our pleas not to, among others. Janie drove me home in a sugared haze and let me lie on the couch until our friend Carrie came over and swept us off to look at Christmas lights around the city. I brought my camera along to capture some of the excitement from the backseat, but we were somewhat disappointed in what Seattle had to show for itself.
I ate cookies for breakfast today and I brushed my teeth with sprinkles. This is what Christmas is all about! Right now I’m going to go enjoy a cookie milkshake in the glow of my beautiful tree while I watch a documentary about suicide.