A December Saturday with my family of three teens, one early 20s, and an ever-so-helpful husband.
Daughter #2 (L): Mom, when we make our Christmas gifts for friends this year, let’s make sugar cookies. You know, the ones you decorate with icing.
Me: Honey, rolled out cookies with icing are a ton of work.
Her: So what? It’ll be fun and everyone can help.
Me: Sweetheart, I think you’re old enough to hear this. There are two kinds of families in the world: rolled out, decorated cookie families and drop cookie families. We are definitely a drop cookie family.
Her: (Deep dramatic sigh) Oh well, I just wish we were a rolled out cookie family.
With an even deeper more dramatic sigh, I started looking through my recipe box for a rolled sugar cookie recipe. Sure enough, way in the back of the cookie section was a recipe I received years ago from a cookie swap. If memory serves, this was the winning recipe that had put my lowly drop cookies to shame. As I gathered the ingredients, I should have realized that any cookie recipe that calls for 6 cups of flour is a recipe for disaster.
Me: OK, gather round you knuckleheads. Are we all in for the long haul if we make these cookies?
Hubby and Kids: Of course!!! You bake and we’ll decorate.
Many hours and 70 cookies later, I mustered the troops at the dining table laden with six bowls of brightly hued icing, paint brushes, and other assorted decorating tools. Hubby’s suggestion of Christmas music was roundly rejected by the troops, so to the beat of Band of Skulls and Vampire Weekend they enthusiastically began to decorate, while I continued to bake.
When our children were younger they loved The Boxcar Children books. Four plucky orphans alone in the world working harmoniously together to survive. Hubby and I called the rare occasions when all four of our kids were cooperating and playing happily together “Boxcar Kid Moments”. That December afternoon was a Boxcar Kid Moment, if ever there was one.
L: Hey, that bear is great. I wouldn’t have thought to make a University of Texas bear.
Son #2 (W): And I really like your elephant. The face almost looks real.
Daughter #1 (C): Mom, we need more colors of icing.
Son #1 (H): Yeah, how can you expect a masterpiece with such a limited palette?
Me: Guys, I’m not expecting a masterpiece; I’m expecting 70+ somewhat adequately decorated cookies that won’t embarrass us.
L: You know, she always underestimates us.
W: It’s amazing we’re all so normal considering we have a mother with that attitude.
Hubby: Honey, I really could use some light blue for the pants on this gingerbread guy. You might want to make a medium light and a very light while you’re at it.
Thirty minutes later, I kid you not, they were all still on their first cookie. Meanwhile, I continued to bake the rest of the dough, adding to the undecorated stack.
Me: Your cookies are amazing, but you might want to speed up just a bit. Why not mass produce a few of the gingerbread boys? One person can paint the background, one person can outline, and someone else can do the clothes.
C: Mom, honestly! You can’t rush art.
W: Yeah, mass production—smash production is what I say.
Me: OK then, think Jackson Pollock, rather than Renoir. Didn’t he just sling paint on the canvas?
H: Yes, but each “sling”, as you call it, took time since each one was an inspired work of genius.
L: Can you make some mauve icing…maybe a couple of different shades. I want to try shadowing.
Forty minutes later, when I left my baking to check on the artistes, I found 15 cookies worthy of the Museum of Modern Art— and a deserted table. Two were in their rooms, one was watching TV, and two were busy on their computers.
Me: (with perhaps just a touch of irritation in my voice) WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!?!?
H: Mom, chill. We’re just taking a little break to recharge our creative juices.
Me: NO! There will be no break, and you can just forget about your juices, creative or otherwise. I have been baking all day, and we have 80+ more cookies left to decorate. You will all jolly well get your collective butts back to the table and decorate. And your collective butts will stay at that table until every last one of these d%$# cookies are decorated! Do you hear me??????
As I heard Son #1 exclaim ere they trudged back to the dining table-um-sweatshop: Well, well, well, look who just turned into the Christmas Cookie Nazi.
And the Collective Butts all said: AMEN!
Eventually all 100 cookies were decorated. Although not early adopters, the decorators eventually embraced mass production and Jackson Pollock (sans genius) with gusto.
Turns out I was wrong—there are actually three kinds of families in the world. In addition to the rolled and drop cookie families, there is also the humble “no-bake, mix and dump” kind of family. The Christmas Cookie Nazi and Collective Butts have universally agreed that we are most definitely in that latter group. You can expect to receive Rice Krispies Treats from us next year. Bon Appétit.
I wish you a joy-filled holiday season and a blessing-filled 2011!