14. Three Gingerbread Houses

14. Three Gingerbread Houses

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Three Gingerbread Houses

Only an aunt can give hugs like a mother, can keep secrets like a sister, and share love like a friend.

~Author Unknown

Lily and the table were covered in icing. She had consumed more candies than adorned the gingerbread house. Candies hung in gobs of white icing haphazardly on the house… and it was beautiful. My great-niece was two years old, and it was the first time I invited her to decorate a gingerbread house. My boys, now teenagers, had outgrown the custom but I had not. And it had been many years since my niece had visited Aunt Rose to decorate a gingerbread house.

Over the next few years, gingerbread-house decorating transformed and I learned many lessons. At three years of age Lily insisted on doing all the decorating herself. The following year she stressed about making her gingerbread house the same as the picture on the box and I learned to throw the box out before she arrived.

And then Lily’s sister Jaime was old enough to be included and I learned that a five-year-old and a two-year-old could not share a gingerbread house harmoniously. The five-year-old wanted symmetry and the two-year-old was happy with gobs of icing precariously holding the candies onto the house. For one it was about the finished product and for the other it was more about the process. The next year they each had their own gingerbread house.

And then there were three gingerbread houses when their brother Jack joined us. The heck with icing for Jack, he discovered that if you licked the candies first they would stick just fine and the ones that didn’t stick could just be eaten.

Lily is now twelve years old and almost as tall as I am. For the time being she still tolerates gingerbread house decorating with Aunt Rose. Jaime now has a plan for her decorating and spends a lot of time completing it. Jack uses icing to make the candies stick now but still manages to eat a few during the process.

Four years ago, when I moved to a new city an hour away, I wondered how and if we would continue the tradition of decorating gingerbread houses. Not only have we continued, but the tradition has grown to include a trip to the local theatre. Their mom and their dad or meme (grandma) make the drive to my place. The day includes gingerbread-house decorating, lunch and theatre. So far we have seen Mary Poppins, Peter Pan and The Little Mermaid.

My calendar is marked early in the season and I anticipate this day with excitement and wonderment. I see Lily, Jaime and Jack throughout the year at family functions, not as often as I would like now that I live farther away, but on this day it is about our tradition, a tradition that has grown as they have grown and changed as life has changed. It is our time — my time to watch how they have grown and changed from the previous year and to enjoy their company and their joy of the Christmas season. It gives me comfort to know that no matter how crazy and busy life gets, this tradition is a for-sure thing. For them it may be about decorating a gingerbread house and going to the theatre but for me it is about the love of family and the feeling that the Christmas season brings.

~Rose Couse

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