36: Best House Ever

36: Best House Ever

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Best House Ever

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.

~Walt Streightiff

Even though I was a single parent on a limited budget, my son Ryan and I always had a special Christmas. I bought decorations for our tree at yard sales and purchased our Christmas gifts throughout the year when I saw a good deal. We put up our tree in late November and took our time decorating it. We always made some decorations ourselves, as our little fake tree needed all the help it could get.

The year Ryan turned six years old I decided we would make our own gingerbread house. While I am a good cook, I am a notoriously bad baker. However, I convinced myself that making gingerbread from scratch would be even easier than making cake from a box.

Although I was always on a budget, I dropped my inhibitions for our fantasy gingerbread house. Ryan and I had a grand time selecting lots of candies to decorate our edible house.

The plan was to bake the gingerbread one evening and assemble the house, then decorate it the following evening. Ryan was so excited that he told his friends, teachers and anyone else who would listen.

I picked Ryan up early from daycare on that first Monday in December. We measured and mixed and rolled out our gingerbread. Then, with ruler in hand, I carefully cut the four walls and two roof parts that we needed. I had a picture from a magazine that I used as my guide. We ate dinner while the gingerbread baked, and while it cooled we prepared our work area on the dining room table. Ryan sorted the candies onto separate plates while I mixed up a bowl of stiff icing to use as the glue for the walls and roof.

My first indication that we had a problem was when I realized that my gingerbread pieces were as heavy as bricks. There was no way our icing would hold the pieces in place. We tried everything from thickening the icing to using books to hold the four walls together, but nothing worked.

Our fun project had turned into an exercise in frustration as the four walls of the house imploded over and over again. Ryan was relieved when I told him we were going to stop working on our house for the evening. After his bath and bedtime story he quickly fell into a deep sleep.

I went back to the dining room table and studied my poor excuse for a gingerbread house. I realized that no one would ever be able to eat these rock pieces of gingerbread so there was no sense continuing the process with edible icing. Out came the real glue.

And then I had a great idea. I found cardboard and some duct tape, and I made a model of our gingerbread house. When that was as sturdy as possible, I glued the gingerbread pieces to the cardboard interior. Done! By 1:00 a.m. I had a gingerbread house that was ready to be decorated.

Ryan was so excited when he found our sturdy gingerbread house the next morning.

That evening I sat back, listened to Christmas songs on the radio and watched my six-year-old have a great time gluing candy to his house and its cardboard base. The next day we put it out for display on the coffee table beside our tree. A few days later one of his friends came for a visit and, as they looked at the oddly decorated house, I heard Ryan proudly explain that NOTHING on his gingerbread house could be eaten because it was held together with REAL GLUE.

I loved Ryan’s view of our world as a child, especially during Christmas. Through his eyes I could see that we did indeed own the most special Christmas tree in the world and that standing beside it was the best gingerbread house ever to grace a table.

The best Christmas gift Ryan ever gave me was when, as an adult, he told me that he never knew we didn’t have a lot of money. In his mind we’d been wealthy because we so frequently had the most special things in the entire world — like our Christmas tree and that little, glued-together gingerbread house.

~Laura Snell

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