A mother, father, sister, and brother lived in a one-story house in Texas. The Christmas season did not bring snow and freezing temperatures like it did when they moved Up North, but it did bring tamales and jalapeno corn and an advent calendar whose pockets hid little toys sewn by Grandmother and hymns and annual Christmas cards, along with the annual family “let’s-dress-alike” photo that was mailed to friends all over the country and even overseas.
And goodies. Christmas brought lots of goodies that the mother and sister baked, with the brother occasionally feeding bites to himself and three dogs. Father did not care so much for all the baking, as cutout cookies and cereal dyed green and topped with red hots was not his idea of dessert. Father also did not care for the dishes that filled the sink and covered the two small kitchen countertops and edged their way onto the breakfast nook table and even into the dining room.
One night the mother, excited about a recipe she’d found in a magazine at the pediatrician’s office, started yet another baking project. She had all the ingredients at home, luckily, including the candy.
She mixed dry and wet ingredients separately, then made a well in the dry ones like all good cooks know to do. A nice sticky batter appeared. Next the recipe said: Add 1 cup crushed peppermint candies.
The mother tore open the bag of individually wrapped peppermints and began unwrapping each candy. The sister enthusiastically joined in but soon made stacks of the candies and made up a story about a gingerbread house. The dogs spit out the peppermints the brother fed to them but did like licking his sticky face. When all the candies were unwrapped, the mother put them on a cutting board and tried to smash them using the bottom of a stainless steel bowl, because the family lived in the days before food processors were common in homes like theirs. Some candies broke into big pieces, but most of them stuck to the bottom of the bowl.
Next the mother put the peppermints inside a lunchbox-size paper bag, stuck that bag inside a bigger bag, and attacked the candies with the father’s hammer that she’d found in the garage. Some candies turned to dust. Others miraculously avoided death by bludgeoning. Somehow the hammer tore a hole in the outer bag, then the inner bag, and candies rained on the floor.
For some reason, the dogs loved them now.
Pieces of peppermint stuck on the linoleum, the cabinets, in the mother’s and sister’s and brother’s hair, and even in the dogs’ coats. The mother sighed and debated asking for the father’s help. He would not be happy that the kitchen had undergone so many changes in the last hour, none involving his dinner.
But the father always knew how to solve a problem, even a sticky one like this.
The mother found the father in the den. She first apologized for starting a project so late, then told the story about the tricky sticky peppermints. In the kitchen now, the father surveyed the situation. With a gleam in his eye, he asked the mother to resack the candies, only this time use three bags. Then he left the room, returning with his parka on and his truck keys in his hand. The mother, sister, and brother followed him outside. Something exciting was happening!
The father set the bundled candies in the middle of their driveway, then disappeared into the garage, started his truck, revved his engine, backed out of the garage, and maneuvered his vehicle so its left tires ran over the sacks. He braked the truck, then jerked forward, honking the horn and waving. To the clapping and cheers of the rest of the family, the father attacked those candies with the truck tires, over and over and over. Later, when the father opened the sack, he proudly displayed his spoils: nice fragments of peppermints…exactly what the mother needed for the recipe to succeed.
For the strangest reason, the father loved this Christmas treat.
This family story lives in third person in my mind, as I told it to you, because it has become a movie of a moment in the busyness of a Christmas season that brought unity and fun and even a bit of joy…in the complexity of a recipe, in the crazy way a problem can be tackled, in the miraculous way that an item in a long to-do list of holiday chores becomes a thread of my life story.
The problem with a to-do list item like the peppermint candy cane brownies is its busyness can engulf the true miracle and joy and unifying Christmas gift: God coming to earth as a helpless Babe, intent on giving eternal life to all Who believe in Him. The problem with a Christmas devoid of such capers is that “normality” can make Christmas just another day of reading the Bible and thinking how good it all is without actually doing something to get involved, like picking up a hammer and trying a new recipe and teaching kids how fun it can be to cook and getting Dad to come into a crowded kitchen: all teeny, tiny miracles that just might be reflecting a sliver of light from Jesus, the Savior, the true Light of the World.
This Barbara Bakes recipe captures the look, the taste, the smell of those long-ago treats! Thank you, Barbara, for making this blog post a sensory experience!