Sow There! Crazy cardboard confections with kids, Dec. 20, 2019


I brought home boxed gingerbread kits from a big box store for the children to dive into at a recent make-up Thanksgiving get-together. It was a hit. (Heather Hacking — contributed)
December 20, 2019 

I’m done. I usually hate shopping. When I shop during the holidays, I soon dislike people. I need to buy something for Dad, but he’s likely to get one of those gift cards sold near the checkout at Safeway.

Thank goodness we have one more farmers market before the big gift day. When I gift candy-covered almonds, I never worry about the right size or the right color.

The point of this time of year is to actually enjoy the holiday. If I ventured to consumer-land right now, I’d return home empty-handed with a sore jaw from grinding my teeth.

Yet, there is plenty of joy to be had writing Christmas cards. I’m so glad I bought a big box of them at Costco, well before Halloween.

Last year, I did not get around to sending cards. Just like everyone else, the fires blew out my sense of stability. People didn’t need cards last year to remind them of joy and love. They needed clean socks, a place to sleep and a kind soul to take in four stranded dogs.

This year, when I returned to my ritual of writing Christmas cards, I noticed there were many friends on my list for whom I have no address.

There were also a few people who are no longer on the planet. Two years ago, Auntie Georgie sent me what would be her last holiday card. We had been exchanging cards since I was 12, after our family visited her lakeside home in Eagan, Minnesota.

That summer, and a few others through my teens, I joined her for Jazzercise in the balmy basement of the house Uncle Don built. She showed me the black paper photo albums with pictures of the two as high school sweethearts. When he flew B-52s over Europe, he sent her photos he took from the air. In another photo, he was dashing in a bomber jacket. “I’ll fly back to you soon,” he wrote.

I feel honored Auntie Georgie took the time to write, even that final year of her life. She said she could hardly hear, did not see well, and it was hurting to hold the pen, but she was content to know she had good people around her and had lived a great life, she said.

I hope to be sending Christmas cards well into my 90s. However, by then, anyone who is 12 years old will probably look at you mystified if you say the words “postage stamps.”

(Wall o’ gift cards)

New traditions

The final weekend of November, my mom’s side of the family had “make-up Thanksgiving.” Nope, it wasn’t enough to gorge to the point of discomfort with Dad and family, we needed to do it again a few days later with Mom.

My niece has three children, ages 13, 12 and 9.

Typically, our get-togethers go like this:

  • Hugs, hugs, share the joy of being together.
  • Pizza, genuine conversation, dessert.
  • Kids slip into the guest room to play video games or watch a movie.
  • My sister, Mom and I talk, giggle and recall embarrassing times from our past. Mom’s beau consistently cannot get a word in edgewise.

At some point, the night is done and I realize the kids have been gone for hours and I didn’t have a chance to ask them embarrassing questions.

Candy crafts

A few days before my food journeys, I spotted a tower of boxed gingerbread kits at a big box store.

That looked fun – icing and colorful candies, all on a gingerbread cracker that probably tasted like cardboard. This was the kind of thing my mother would have never bought during my granola-based childhood.

“Do you think the kids would like this?” I asked when I sent a photo via text.

“Who cares,” she replied. “I’d have fun making it.”

At make-up Thanksgiving, I brought out the box and pretended I didn’t care if the children joined us.

“Look, Sunrise,” I said to my older sister. “I brought this great candy thing we can make.”

These kids are like cats. They act like you’re invisible, until they’re interested in something you are doing.

A few minutes after my sister started licking frosting from her fingers, the kids saw the gum drops in fashion colors and postponed their slink to the video game room.

Now we’re talking — a family sitting at the amazingly large dining room table, a silver baking tray at each seat to catch the gooey, nearly inedible icing.

Even if no one else said it out loud, I am the best auntie ever! I even brought extra tubes of icing so no one would fight over who was hogging the tube of red frosting.

We did not follow directions. We ate half the candy before it became artwork. No one ate their gingerbread, but no one cared.

When we noticed the children had left the room, the adults brainstormed some ideas for next time. Maybe we could decorate sugar cookies, or work on a puzzle, make origami swan mobiles or track down a Lite Brite.

The last I heard, my mom saw a gingerbread house kit, and we’ll be in the candy art business Christmas Eve.

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