Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our Gingerbread Cookie Tradition

My friend David, Third World County , ( link in title bar works ) posted a challenge to write and enter Christmas Carnival 2008. Sharing Christmas stories is just as important as any other gift and so I wanted to add just a little, maybe encourage someone with a smile as we enter the Christmas Season.

Christmas brings with it an overload of pleasant thoughts and memories; one in particular has been with me since my earliest recollections, gingerbread cookies. Mom would put all the ingredients together in a bowl, refrigerate the glob of brown dough for a day or so and then start rolling out cookies. When the thin sheet of dough wasn’t able to support cutting a full blown gingerbread man, the fragments of dough could be made into just the head; nothing was wasted. It should be noted that these fragments tended to make the gingerbread a little harder ( a lot harder), enough to break teeth; interestingly enough these rock hard gingerbread cookie heads became something of a prize to be had much like the brass ring on a carousel.

The tradition of making gingerbread cookies each Christmas time was handed down from my mother to Lucy about thirty years ago. I’m not exactly sure how the Federal Reserve secures the gold supply; however, it might not be as well guarded as the gingerbread recipe that mom reluctantly let go of. Think about the baked bean company with their Irish Setter commercial, the dog’s mouth forming words as he’s looking at the camera, “…and I’ll never tell.”

Yesterday Lucy had taken the dough out of the refrigerator early in the morning to let it soften up and planned to get most of the cookie baking done this week in order to put them in tins and off to family members who live far away. Lucy also bakes a mean oatmeal with cinnamon chip cookie, chewy and impossible to resist with a glass of milk. Then there’s the fudge, dipped pretzels in white chocolate and sheets of chocolate chip cookies cut into squares; is it any wonder I start to have a weight issue?

I called mom to give an update as to the progress of the gingerbread cookies, after all, it was a tradition which she’d started. I could hear the wheels in her head engage memories from many years back as if transported in time.

“Do you know how I picked gingerbread cookies?”, a pause of remembrance as I pictured her wiping away a tear or two streaming down her cheek. We were in Tulsa, living on a shoe string. “I wanted to bake something and I already had everything needed for that recipe; the spices, the butter, the molasses, and five cups of flour.” She knew the recipe well enough to list each item over the phone as if mixing ingredients as we spoke.

When my mother was a young girl going through the depression she wanted to bake cookies as a Christmas gift for her mother. With her own money she purchased the ingredients, times were tough and she knew better than to dip into the items stored in the pantry; she baked a batch of cookies while my grandmother was away at work. The lingering aroma of baked cookies was present when my grandmother came home late that evening. Rather than give up her secret, my mother lied and made up a story and said that she’d ruined a batch of cookies and had to throw them away.

The idea of waste in any form during the depression was more than could be accepted and my mother paid the price with a terrible spanking and scolding. On Christmas Day the truth came out as a small box of cookies was presented. The realization of what had been exchanged was, and still is, the cause of many tears of appreciation.

There are lessons to be gained as Christmas brings out the best in us. The thoughts and efforts used to express feelings for others; family or close friends, have little if anything to do with the cost of items exchanged. No, the true value of a gift comes from the sacrifice required by the giver and an appropriate appreciation expressed to acknowledge that sacrifice. It doesn’t matter if it’s a plate of gingerbread cookies prepared in the poorest kitchen with what ever ingredients happen to be available, a porcelain nutcracker ornament to hang from a tree in the living room or a brand new car parked in the driveway complete with a fancy red ribbon; with gratitude shown, gifts are elevated to a holier sphere.

Let us remember with appropriate appreciation the sacrifice made by our Savior, a gift which opens the doors of Heaven. May we join all the Who’s down in Whoville and sing with the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts as we celebrate the season with friends and family.

No comments: