The power of the Sugar Cookie…again.

This will be the third time I have posted this article. The repeated ritual of making cookies each Christmas season brings all these thoughts back to mind. I love the ritual, and I love that my children enjoy the ritual. Funny how something as simple as a cookie can carry so many memories, for each of us.

My mother was able to make a home come alive in the holidays; the decorations were all well thought out and brought a sense of elegance and delight. Our meals were lavish at Thanksgiving and Christmas and we lingered over them. We learned conversation and story and the joy of being a large family. We learned that the seasons stood out and were different.

Sometimes, though, it was the more simple things that brought everything to life. Like sugar cookies.

Here are my thoughts last year, continuing to try to stir us to thinking about Advent as it will begin in just a week. Hoping these thoughts will help to inspire us to do something to make this Christmas, this Advent, stand out. Also aware that as we move through these seasons there is that ache for those who are not whole in our midst. For minds which no longer take in the wonder around us, or for those who have passed away. Balancing that ache with the wonder of the season can be difficult…sometimes, though, the simple things that we do to make the season stand out will provide comfort and delight when we need it most.

The Power of the Sugar Cookie.

The box arrived yesterday, stacked with a few boxes from Amazon. This box was different, though, and it stood out. The address was hand-written, and the contents were able to evoke memories and emotions, a power the other boxes could not muster.

Even Chip the dog noticed. He kept walking over and sniffing the box, waiting for me to take it upstairs and open to see what was inside.

Little tiny stars that brought back so many memories. This year my dad, with the help of a long-time family friend who stays with mom during the day sometimes, sent out mom’s famous Christmas cookies. The recipe actually goes back to her mom, and possibly beyond that, although I’m not sure. Grandma was a great cook, and Christmas was filled with cookies and candies and fudge and divinity and, yes fruit cake. No, you are not allowed to make fruit cake jokes around me. Her fruitcake was made painstakingly…cutting each candied fruit to the same size and spending a full day in the kitchen working away. The result was a cake that even as a kid I enjoyed, but especially with a special warm lemon sauce poured over.

This year, though, it’s the cookies that bring back the memories. These do not quite compare to the cookies of my childhood, but they still carry in their little flour and sugar forms all the memories of Christmas. Christmas was not Christmas without the sugar cookies. We made hundreds. Literally. I mean, hundreds….500, 600, 700 cookies. We would watch them be made, help decorate with icing and red hots and sprinkles, then load them all up on plates with Saran Wrap and walk the neighborhood, delivering these cookies to all the neighbors. And the teachers. And the Sunday School teachers. And friends. And then we would munch on them happily for days.

It has been a lifetime, it seems, since we made those cookies. Dad has pictures somewhere, lots of pictures, of the kitchen filled with cookies.

Now, a little box came and let me know that it’s Christmas time.

christmascookie1

The cookies are not quite the same. They still taste great, but the decorations are simple when they used to be detailed. The activity was more of a distraction to keep a mind occupied that tends to be overwhelmed by how much it cannot figure out…constantly questioning and being frustrated. Still, there was a hesitation when I opened the box, a moment of not wanting to eat these cookies, because, well…what if they are the last ones?

I’m wired that way. I have books from favorite authors where I refuse to read the last chapter because I always want there to be something I have not read from them. I admit, though, it would be pretty silly to leave a sugar cookie uneaten, and I’m not sure I have that much discipline anyway.

Mom’s mind is a little more gone than it was last year. It is a little more difficult to keep her on the phone when I call and I feel the distance acutely this time of year. Mom used to always tell me that the house seemed to love Christmas time, that it came alive as we decorated and brought that wonder in that only belongs to this time of year. She made Christmas a magical time, a time of excitement and wonder and delicious tastes as well sounds and sights. All of these efforts were not wasted, and now at 42 a little sugar cookie can evoke a whole avalanche of memories and feelings and emotions.

So, as I get flustered trying to get it “all” done this season, this little box of cookies stopped me. I’ve got laundry that needs to be folded and dishes that need to be done, and floors that need to be mopped. I have a lot of ‘duties’ to do….but there will be sugar cookies made this weekend. A lot of them. Steve does a great job of getting the house decorated and pulling out all the stockings and candles and garlands and lights. The house twinkles with a special kind of wonder, and in the midst of a world that is so full of sorrow and fear and tragedy…I hope memories are being made for my kids.

More than that, though, I hope that a foundation of wonder is being formed. That is part of the heritage of my mom. There is an importance to the wonder and to the beauty. It is not merely decoration. It is a statement that these things matter and that it is important to feed our souls with beauty…with music and with images…and even with sugar cookies sometimes.

Thanks, Mom and Dad….

Grandmadriveway

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The Party Wouldn’t Have Been Complete Without You….

There are significant moments in the lives of those we love which call for us to stop and pay attention.

Marriages.

Births.

Deaths.

And 80th Birthdays seem rather appropriate as well. If you have followed this little blog very long you will know it is the time of year for my Dad’s birthday, and this year marks the 80th. He has now lived longer than his father, and has entered yet another decade.

What on earth do you do to celebrate? Well, when you are part of a family that is not terribly crafty, and when there is not really a gift you could give that would be more than a mere gesture…you simply come together.

All of my siblings are in Albuquerque for the present time, and I am the only one no longer living in the home town. So, our “gift” was a surprise dinner, including my flying in from TN just for the dinner.

Dadentrance

Our gift, though is really just recognition of the gift we have received. We have this tremendous blessing of growing up in this family. This legacy is the real gift, and the dinner was just a simple way of recognizing that this is important to us.

MomDadMe
Recognizing that we were blessed to have a rather tremendous man as a Father.

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” -Buechner

MomDadGrant

I have written much about my Dad in the past, but it is worth saying again that he inspires us as he cares for Mom. He examples selfless love on a daily basis, but more than that…he has always made us feel special as his children. He has always pushed us to do more with our talents, and to be thankful in the simple things.

He is one of the constants in my life, and along with Mom has created a family that truly enjoys being with one another. We were thankful that Mom was content for nearly three hours as we laughed and told stories. That is a gift in itself…and she was not only content, she seemed to enjoy being with us.

Family

When I think about memories and about thinking well about our lives, I do turn to Buechner often. He does not fail to have the words I need to express this importance of family…

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” – Buechner

Tableside

I would not have missed out on my Dad’s 80th birthday, but the reality is part of the gift he has given us is simply who we are. Hopefully we give that back to him as well. He has given us a foundation to be a family where there is strength and laughter, where stories flow quickly when we are together. He has raised up children who are eager to bless him, and that is part of the gift.  We didn’t have to say that…sometimes flying a few states over makes the point.

IMG_0039

Happy Birthday, Dad. 

The power of the Sugar Cookie

The box arrived yesterday, stacked with a few boxes from Amazon. This box was different, though, and it stood out. The address was hand-written, and the contents were able to evoke memories and emotions, a power the other boxes could not muster.

Even Chip the dog noticed. He kept walking over and sniffing the box, waiting for me to take it upstairs and open to see what was inside.

Little tiny stars that brought back so many memories. This year my dad, with the help of a long-time family friend who stays with mom during the day sometimes, sent out mom’s famous Christmas cookies. The recipe actually goes back to her mom, and possibly beyond that, although I’m not sure. Grandma was a great cook, and Christmas was filled with cookies and candies and fudge and divinity and, yes fruit cake. No, you are not allowed to make fruit cake jokes around me. Her fruitcake was made painstakingly…cutting each candied fruit to the same size and spending a full day in the kitchen working away. The result was a cake that even as a kid I enjoyed, but especially with a special warm lemon sauce poured over.

This year, though, it’s the cookies that bring back the memories. These do not quite compare to the cookies of my childhood, but they still carry in their little flour and sugar forms all the memories of Christmas. Christmas was not Christmas without the sugar cookies. We made hundreds. Literally. I mean, hundreds….500, 600, 700 cookies. We would watch them be made, help decorate with icing and red hots and sprinkles, then load them all up on plates with Saran Wrap and walk the neighborhood, delivering these cookies to all the neighbors. And the teachers. And the Sunday School teachers. And friends. And then we would munch on them happily for days.

It has been a lifetime, it seems, since we made those cookies. Dad has pictures somewhere, lots of pictures, of the kitchen filled with cookies.

Now, a little box came and let me know that it’s Christmas time.

christmascookie1

The cookies are not quite the same. They still taste great, but the decorations are simple when they used to be detailed. The activity was more of a distraction to keep a mind occupied that tends to be overwhelmed by how much it cannot figure out…constantly questioning and being frustrated. Still, there was a hesitation when I opened the box, a moment of not wanting to eat these cookies, because, well…what if they are the last ones?

I’m wired that way. I have books from favorite authors where I refuse to read the last chapter because I always want there to be something I have not read from them. I admit, though, it would be pretty silly to leave a sugar cookie uneaten, and I’m not sure I have that much discipline anyway.

Mom’s mind is a little more gone than it was last year. It is a little more difficult to keep her on the phone when I call and I feel the distance acutely this time of year. Mom used to always tell me that the house seemed to love Christmas time, that it came alive as we decorated and brought that wonder in that only belongs to this time of year. She made Christmas a magical time, a time of excitement and wonder and delicious tastes as well sounds and sights. All of these efforts were not wasted, and now at 42 a little sugar cookie can evoke a whole avalanche of memories and feelings and emotions.

So, as I get flustered trying to get it “all” done this season, this little box of cookies stopped me. I’ve got laundry that needs to be folded and dishes that need to be done, and floors that need to be mopped. I have a lot of ‘duties’ to do….but there will be sugar cookies made this weekend. A lot of them. Steve does a great job of getting the house decorated and pulling out all the stockings and candles and garlands and lights. The house twinkles with a special kind of wonder, and in the midst of a world that is so full of sorrow and fear and tragedy…I hope memories are being made for my kids.

More than that, though, I hope that a foundation of wonder is being formed. That is part of the heritage of my mom. There is an importance to the wonder and to the beauty. It is not merely decoration. It is a statement that these things matter and that it is important to feed our souls with beauty…with music and with images…and even with sugar cookies sometimes.

Thanks, Mom and Dad….

Grandmadriveway

It’s In My Blood….

I’ve been thinking lately about adventures, and about the life that my kids have before them. I am aware that the adventures are simply different now than they were a generation ago, and that has always been true. Things change, and the changes mean that kids grow up differently than we did.

The fact is that my kids life will be dominated by electronics and information, more so than my life was, and much more so than my parents. They understand computers instinctively and easily because they have grown up with them.

Where we live there are still lots of trails and wide open spaces and areas for exploring, but most of the conquering of the land has been done.

I have relatives who did conquer the land. 

That is my grandfather on the far left, and his brothers. They were in Nebraska, growing up on a farm with their father who was an immigrant from Switzerland. They worked hard and they conquered the land in that area…they were creative and had imaginations that spurred them. There was a river that ran right by the property, and in the winter it would freeze.  Of course, they would skate on this….but I think they did that with more style than I would:

They would take chunks of this ice and put in in their ice house…a building dug deep into the ground to stay cold, and they would insulate it with sawdust saved from cutting the wood to burn through the winter. Then, in the summer when no one had ice, the Mossman family would have a big barn dance on July 4th, complete with ice cream.

They worked hard, and from the stories they played hard as well. They danced and the skated and, if listening to my dad is a lesson…they told stories. They were adventurous souls and strong. One of my uncles bought a bi-plane so he could fly around and collect honey from different places around Nebraska. He ended up being a supplier for SueBee Honey, and I would write how much he delivered but I can’t remember and you would just think I was exaggerating.

Here’s the thing though…they had a sense of humor. It comes through in the pictures. There is a smile there in spite of…or maybe because of the…the harsh life they faced.

And their blood runs in my veins and my children’s veins.

I don’t know how the challenges my children face will form their strength and their humor. The fact is, they don’t face that many challenges right now…they have a pretty easy life. I like that in some ways, but I also am deeply aware that suffering forms us in ways that ease cannot.

Suffering, hardship, struggle…they bring out a character in us, and a humor, that is unique. There may not be lands to be conquered around us, but there ist still life to be conquered. There are fears and struggles around them that they will face that will give them the opportunity to conquer…to stand in the midst of difficulty and see that God works there.

I wonder how I would have fared on the farm in Nebraska…I wonder what those relatives would think of how I carry myself in the challenges I face. It may just be loads of laundry and keeping growing boys (and girl!) fed and cared for, and now also to educate them. I may not have fields to plow or things to invent, but even this easy life has its momentary challenges. I hope that the humor I see in the pictures of my father’s family will appear in the pictures of my family. I hope that it will tell that the adventurous spirit still is evident and that we still are able to stand strong in the midst of this life.  I hope my children carry on the strength of their fathers. They will face challenges and suffering and hardship, and that strength is there…it is part of them. It is in their blood.