The bitter sweetness of holiday memories

As I’m sure most families do, we always had family get togethers around the holidays.  Huge events that we all worked ourselves up for.  Family that we haven’t seen for a year to catch up with; a night filled with the delight of opening presents after dinner and playing with them until it was time to head home for the next holiday adventure! 

When I was younger, the holidays seemed more involved than they do now.  Maybe it’s because I was watching others prepare for it instead of now being the prepare-er.  It’s funny how perspective can play such a huge role in the little things we do.

Every Christmas when I was young, my cousin and I would sneak and grab some of grandma’s famous cookies before anyone else had a chance to eat them.  Looking back, I know grandma knew we were stealing cookies but she never said a word…that’s what grandmas do, let you eat all the goodies first!

Years would go by and as Grandma aged, it was harder for her to prepare all the same foods that we had grown to love.  The food had become just as much of a tradition as the gathering had.  A few of us took to making these hard to stir, heavy batter and ingredient filled delights, but we had to learn it from the chef herself!  There were special ways to prepare each item and Grandma made sure we did it right!

It was not until I first learned how to make grandmas famous cookies that I realized how much effort had gone into all the stirring and sifting, baking and icing…boy do I appreciate grandma and her cookies more and more every year!

Grandma hasn’t been with us physically for a few years now, but I still make those cookies with the same love she put into them.  Even if I didn’t want to, I’d have to…you should see the glances I get as I walk in for the holidays.  If I do not have what resembles a box full of cookies in my hands, there’s trouble to be had.  I might even be disowned.  I’m not sure, so I’ll just keep making them!

The most spectacular thing about baking those cookies is that every year, I feel my Grandmas presence as I make them.  Maybe that sounds a little cooky (yes, I did that on purpose) to you but I can honestly say that she has been with me each year except for this one.

You see, I had this unbelievable experience on my way home from work about a week prior to making the cookies for the holiday party we have every year.  There I was minding my own business, nearly home and a huge bright red Cardinal flies right in front of my car (Cardinals are my grandma’s FAVORITE bird).  Before I could finish saying, “Hi grandma”, I was overwhelmed with great sorrow, which was instantly replaced with utter bliss.  By the time I reached the stop sign, I was in tears of laughter over joyed with the presence I knew was my grandmother letting me know she was with me.

At the time I didn’t understand why that had happened.  After all I was just headed home from work that morning, nothing out of the ordinary from any other day.  I just figured grandma was saying hello.  It wasn’t until I made those cookies that I understood, fully, why she made such a grand display that morning.  You see, I didn’t have grandma with me this year when I made cookies.  She was not with me in the kitchen, there wasn’t a weird sense of someone watching over me, I felt a little alone and sad but then I remembered the Cardinal. That’s when my heart overfilled with contentment. 

My conclusion is that grandma had to be with someone else on cookie day.  Someone needed her more than I did and that’s okay because Grandmas are great like that.  They show up at the most unexpected times to show support even when you don’t think you need it.

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash