Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012 - 4 comments

Let Not Your Cookie Cutters Rust

You wouldn’t normally think of a cookie cutter as a sign of hope.

A friend once told me how she had one special gingerbread man cookie cutter that she’d bought for the day when her daughter would be old enough to make Christmas cookies with her.  I picture it as shiny and silver, with those nice sharp edges that make for a well-formed edible man.  It would produce whole families of gingerbread people, complete with silver bead eyes and crooked royal icing smiles and cinnamon heart buttons on imaginary coats.  

The thing was, my friend didn’t have a daughter.  She didn’t even have a husband.  But she did have hope.  I imagine that every year when she pulled out her cookie cutters, that little gingerbread man one caused a bit of a twinge in her heart - a reminder that the thing she most longed for still sat out of reach.  And yet, at the same time, that cookie cutter is a symbol of her unwavering trust in the One who knows the desires of her heart inside out and has the power to bring them to life.  

I, too, have a set of cookie cutters.  A Christmas tree, a gingerbread man and his son, a big star, and some tiny angels and candy canes in which the dough always seems to get stuck.  I also have an ever growing collection of pastry bags and icing tips, sprinkles and markers with edible ink.  And today, they’re coming out of the cupboard to make their annual appearance.

My love for decorating cookies started when I was little.  My Grandma used to have me and a friend over most years for a big cookie decorating extravaganza.  She’d have plenty ready when we got there, and the oven would keep running all day to keep up with our need for “more stars” or “another tray of those chocolate ones.”  We’d sit at the kitchen table, up to our elbows in icing, intently focused on our sugary works of art.  She was always into the latest fancy recipe she’d seen Martha Stewart making, but we were never big fans of the nutty ones or anything that couldn’t be slathered with colourful icing.  :)  

At my eighth birthday party, my mom was brave enough to set a whole sleepover-full of girls loose with bowls of icing and licorice nibs and Smarties and candy corn.  I distinctly recall my cookie resembling a city with tightly packed skyscrapers - the more I could fit on there the better!

When I was in high school, I worked at a bakery, and I remember being so excited when I was finally trusted to write on cakes or do the chocolate smiley faces on our iced happy face cookies.   Halloween was the best because you got to get creative with the Jack-o-lantern ones. :)

Once I grew up, I started to look forward to the day when I would be the one popping tray after tray of cookies into the oven while my own little ones shook sprinkles onto iced cookies and decorated little gingerbread outfits.  But, like my friend with her prized cookie cutter, I am still hoping toward the day when that dream is a reality at my own kitchen table.

In the midst of the waiting, though, I have learned a precious lesson.  It is far better to spill out my storehouse of “mama love” now than to save it up for “someday” when I have my own kids.  I don’t have to fear it running out if I spend it on other people’s children.  But I might fear it going sour inside of me if I were to keep it all locked up.  Instead of letting my cookie cutters rust while mourning the fact that I don’t yet have a family of my own to make traditions with, I’ve decided to be thankful for the “family” around me and enjoy those traditions now.

And so it is that I have a Christmas cookie decorating party at my house every year.  

The group around the table changes every time.  Once it was a trio of pre-teen girls who giggled and sang their way through who knows how many dozen cookies and then took their treasures home to share with their families.  Last year it was several of us twenty-and-thirty-somethings and one of the no-longer-so-pre-teen girls reliving sugar-sprinkled childhood memories and then cozying up to White Christmas with mugs of minty hot chocolate.  And tomorrow, it will be said nearly-graduating girl (who is now closer to “friend” than “kid” in my books) and I teaching her two little sisters and their two best friends the fine art of squeezing a piping bag.

These kiddos have been a part of my life for almost six years now, since before two of them could really say anything intelligible.  They’re like siblings to each other and are the closest thing I have to nieces and nephews, and I adore every one of them.  They are a great source of hugs and entertaining stories, and it is my delight to pick out presents for them when I am back in Canada and cheer from the audience as they recite nationalistic poems and dance with pompoms at their school programs.  They are old enough now to be trusted with sprinkle shakers and food colouring and I am super excited to watch their creative juices flow.  

And so, as I head to the kitchen for the Cookie Day Eve baking marathon and take my gingerbread man cutters off their shelf, I can honestly say that my heart is full.  It’s full of  10% wistfulness and longing for “someday” and 90% gratitude for the people who have been placed in my life to love on now, today.  I look forward to a day of laughter and milk-moustaches and sprinkles and sugar-buzz induced silliness.

And I know that when I do have kids of my own, I will have raised them up some amazingly creative cookie coaches.  :)


I love reading your blog posts Jamie!!! There's no one like you. And your writing creates such a picture in my mind- makes me miss you :)

I smile reading your post. We do have great people around us. I too have my own set of Turkish nephew&nieces, who are almost closer than my real ones.
The cookies look GREAT!

Ellen, I'm glad you think so, cuz you'll be eating some this weekend! :)