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Too Cool for Christmas
"It's time to make gingerbread houses!" I holler up to Julia, 9, and Henry, 7, in my most melodious-mommy voice. I take our annual gingerbread house-making tradition seriously, so I stand at the base of our stairs eagerly anticipating their excited responses. They usually look forward to chewing on gum drops as we create our little houses, but my announcement is met with silence so resounding it makes "not a creature was stirring" an understatement.
Climbing the stairs, I find them both doing their homework. I attempt to sweeten the offer — literally — with "I'll let you lick the frosting..."
Julia smiles sanguinely and offers a strikingly mature, "Can we do it tomorrow, Mom? I have a book report due."
I stand there, remembering how unstoppable their enthusiasm was just last December, stunned at the difference a year makes. Moments like these crystallize how swiftly, and indifferent, time is and make me want to place their childhood in a can of preserves.
Alone in the kitchen my gaze rests on some family photos of all of us along with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and I have a little epiphany. The next day I have the photos color-copied and laminated, and then I cut them into various shapes and sizes.
When the kids dutifully arrive in the kitchen to make their gingerbread houses, I surprise them with a stack of little plastic-covered paper doll photos of their relatives. I tell them that this year we're going to fill the windows, doors, chimney, even the frosting wreathes, with faces of their family members. Immediately, the activity goes from being a duty to being fun.
"I'm putting Uncle John on the roof!" says Henry, adhering Uncle John's photo with some frosting. Julia smiles as she puts her father and I on her little chimney and then builds a sled out of pretzel sticks to put her cousins' faces in.
"Can we make a snowman body for Grandpa Mort's picture?" Henry asks, and we do. After a few gum drops, the activity becomes a complete giggle-fest and we spend the afternoon building, frosting, and placing the little friendly faces of our family on our sweet houses.
Later that evening as I admire our gingerbread houses, which are the best holiday centerpieces we've ever had, I'm the one with sugar plums dancing in my head.