Once Halloween hits, I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach reminding me that Christmas is almost here. The legs of time make a gigantic leap over Halloween and Thanksgiving and we’re plunked into a sea of Joy to the World, Silent Night, spending too much money on presents and all thought of what the holiday is really about, vanishes like candy in a kindergarten classroom.
My mind pulls and tugs, trying to hold back time as it ticks, like a bomb, toward Christmas. The holiday buzz begins. Running from store to store like a whirling dervish, buying to buy, wrapping to wrap and giving to give…and because I must. Colorful, glitter-laden Holiday greeting cards point out the ‘reason for the season’ but it, too, seems to get lost in shark-like buying frenzies and grabbing Christmas red sweaters on sale for half price.
How can I keep the focus on what has deep, rich meaning? Staying present and doing something for others less fortunate than myself is what I’ve learned bridges the gap from materialism to making difference during the holiday season. Here’s how it all began.
Each year at the start of the holiday season, I begin baking. It’s really the only time I bake in mass quantity. Strangely enough my now adult daughters do the same thing, as did my Mother. I didn’t want to be like my mom, and well, my girls pride themselves in their own individualism. But, what we do have in common is, we bake, we cook, we have to we're feeding children, adults--families.
When my kids were small, at the ages when baking with Mom was fun, out came the baking utensils, yellow measuring cups, ¼, 1/3, ½, ¾, 1 cup, worn metal measuring spoons, big white Rubbermaid bowls, lots of creamy butter, sugar, salt, flour, cracked eggs hopefully without tiny sand like pieces of shell. Cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg dotted the countertops along with other spices, and the baking began. We’d make cinnamon sugar Snicker doodles, gingerbread boys and girls with red-hots for eyes and m & m’s for buttons, red and green colored Christmas butter cookies, thumbprint cookies with strawberry jam and small loaves of cranberry bread. The best part was licking the leftover batter from the bowl with their fingers and for a moment, I’d worry they’d get salmonella from the raw eggs, which by the way, never happened.
I’d watch their deft little fingers drop cookies into Christmas tins and boxes with pictures of Santa Claus and reindeer on the top, counting to make sure each box had the same number of cookies. We’d pile into the old blue station wagon and drive to the local Homeless shelter, senior housing center or Battered Women’s Alternative, dropping off cookies. Then we’d go home, spread an old red, white and blue snowflake flannel quilt on the floor and eat snicker doodles and drink hot chocolate. We'd watch the Charlie Brown’s Christmas special on television. When I’d ask them what the best part of the day was, eating cookies came first but giving cookies to the folks who were less fortunate than us, they’d say, would make them ‘tickle inside’.
Now, the ‘reason for the season’ is seeing my children volunteer and give back to the community, to those less fortunate, and watch life come full circle.
I miss those days. They sped by much too fast. This year the cookies will be made with the grand kids, and that's just as special.