“Our house smells weird; like bread and cookies, but they don’t go together,” announced Nate as he emerged from the den. The sounds of baking and timers could be heard all of yesterday as Dave and I used both Kitchen Aid mixers to produce baked goods. He made bread. I made cookies. Dave and I spent the morning, after church, shopping for baking items; feeling like teenagers on a date. It is rare that the two of us shop, sans kids, together and we both recalled 13 years earlier; when on similar “dates” we would walk through the aisles of Home Depot dreaming of our house to be.
In an effort to simplify the holidays, both sides of our families acquiesced to limit gift purchasing. On Dave’s side, we draw names, with a limit, but bring a homemade gift to give per family (which there are five). On my side, we play a white elephant game. The gift isn’t actually a white elephant and, again, we have a limit. Whoever brings a gift is allowed to play. This has alleviated a lot of financial stress for everyone. Thus, every December 23rd we are creating a homemade item; usually in the kitchen.
Amongst the baking I had the boys construct a gingerbread house. This year I chose a Home Depot gingerbread house, in honor of a family member who suddenly died in April of alcoholism. She was 39 years old; leaving an 11 y/o and 7 y/o behind. None of us knew she drank; she was adept at hiding her habit. She worked in accounting with Home Depot. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that Home Depot helped with the cost of funerals for their employees. They brought her Home Depot smock, signed with her co-workers’ condolences, and a bright orange wreath of flowers at the funeral home. Although we live near a Lowes, we drive a little further to frequent our Home Depot now. The boys decorated this house in her honor.
For the past few years I’ve had the boys decorate a gingerbread house. You can imagine my disappointment when they started to fight for the icing, the candy and everything in-between. Eventually, my middle son refused to help any further and walked away; angry that he wouldn’t get his way. I found my voice rising and Dave chided me to calm down; which I dutifully did and snapped pictures. When did this activity cease to be fun and become stressful? The middle son knew he was hurting my feelings and after the other two completed the house; I stood by Dave and cried. I saw into the future: countless battles; the silent treatment, the I don’t care attitude of a teenager. The fun activity which I thought would bring me joy brought me great sadness instead. I mentally made a note that this would be the last year I would have the boys make a gingerbread house.
An hour later, when the bread and cookies were packaged, I felt arms around my middle. I had decided to package the gingerbread house to take over to Dave’s sister’s home for Christmas eve. I couldn’t even look at it. I looked down and my middle son quietly apologized; tears in his eyes. He knew I was upset and I accepted his apology. As I patted his head, the realization that this cycle would repeat, over and over, for the rest of his life stayed with me. The innocence of his childhood was lost for me yesterday.