When I was a kid I always looked forward to the Gingerbread cookies my Grandma made at Christmas time. We all loved her cut out sugar cookies, which were fantastic but the Gingerbread cookies had our names on them and she only made them once a year. They were big as Grandma’s heart as well as special, warm and loving, just like Grandma. A special Christmas gift straight from the oven and her heart.
The years passed, and then when I was 12 and Grandma passed. A very import part of my life was lost and I forgot about those cookies. Then when I was in my early twenties my own mother passed too. On the fifteenth of December an aneurysm took her from us when she was only 46. I was devastated.
Later, as I was going through her things, which felt like such an intrusion, I found Grandma’s old gingerbread boy cookie cutter. A little battered but still a memory that suddenly was brand new in my mind.
It didn’t look anything like the modern Ginger Bread cookie cutters. Maybe that’s why the set that I had, brand new and with 3 sizes, hadn’t brought back those long ago memories.
Maybe the loss of the second of the two most important women in my life made those memories come to the front of my consciousness. I don’t know but suddenly I was flooded with memories and I stood there with that battered old cookie cutter in my hand and sobbed.
I wondered why Mom had never used that cookie cutter. Then I remembered, although I had only been 12, how devastated she had been at the loss of her mother. Perhaps for her the sight of that cookie cutter brought back a loss she still couldn’t deal with. She had, after all, lived with the memory of those Gingerbread cookies a lot longer than I had. We all process grief differently and now I would never have a chance to ask her.
In the years since finding that cookie cutter I’ve made hundreds of cookies with it. My kids loved the big cookies that I made from Grandma’s recipe. Always with their name on it just like Grandma had done for us so long ago. And for her own children long before that.
One year I made them for every child in my daughter’s kindergarten class. With their name of course. And one for the teacher. My daughter’s smile as she passed them out lit up the whole room on an otherwise dreary December day. A memory that still warms my heart.
Over the years I have used my own set of cookies cutters to make various sizes of cookies. I have piping bags and lots of tips and have learned to decorate cookies fairly well. I’ve gotten brave and learned to make gingerbread houses. It was all fun and it was all very satisfying as I love to bake and I love to create.
I learned to turn the cookies upside down and make reindeer cookies for my grandkids. They too were praised and prized. But this is a different day and a different world and I doubt that I am giving them the kind of memories my Grandma Hattie gave to me. Life is too fast and there are too many distractions to actually stop and smell the gingerbread.
Looking back Christmas baking has been a wonderful experience for me. As it was for my Grandma and my mother. We give with our hearts when we give what we’ve made. All the proper dietary requirements in the world cannot stop a woman who bakes from giving her love with what she makes.
Christmas cookies don’t make you fat unless you eat them 12 months a year. Christmas cookies, baked just for you with love warm your heart and fill your soul with contentment. At least it did for me. Both the giving and the getting.
But those long ago Gingerbread cookies are still the best. Because Grandma had so little and she did so much with what she had. Plus she had the baking gene that made everything she baked better than what I can do to this day. Any day I come close is a good day.
Here’s wishing you warm and loving cookies all through this season. As warm and loving as the ones my Grandma baked for me. Baked with enough love to still warm my heart over 60 years later. That’s a lot from a cookie don’t you think?