I don’t remember when it started, but for years now it is a family tradition for me and my two siblings to make a gingerbread house. It seems to me that my sister was already in college when this tradition began. We pull out the same metal tea-tray, cover it with aluminum foil, and glue the pre-made gingerbread house kit together with Betty Crocker vanilla icing. My mother buys far too much candy, giving us a ridiculous amount of options for decorating, and a subsequent sugar high that lasts until the end of January.
I’ve seen some amazing gingerbread houses. Some people build replicas of famous buildings with scale model precision. My in-laws built their own house one year and bought stacks of gum to use as white siding. It was beautiful and insane.
I can’t remember when we decided to jump over beautiful and dive right into insane. I think we used to start with good intentions, lining the roof with skittle christmas lights and using peppermints to make a sidewalk, but after a little munching the sugar hits your bloodstream and you’re hardly responsible for your own behavior. It’s hard not to snack on the goodies in front of you, especially when you know there’s going to be a bowl full of extras at the end, and honestly, I’ve always been a sucker for icing.
Usually the saga of the house centers around the gummy bears. The house is theirs and they are often protecting it from some sort of invasion. This year, we had both chocolate and vanilla icing. The chocolate side belonged to the Star Wars Angry Bird gummies, who were at war with the gummy bears. We built mini battle scenes with appropriate amounts of carnage.
Then we found the gummy worms.
They were the real problem. They answered to no one. They were wild, untamable, and loved to eat other gummy creatures. My brother molded a shoot of fondant for them to come curling up from under the earth. They are attacking the lines of marching bears and creating chaos within the chaos.
That’s the story. Death and destruction every year. Violent? Perhaps. Blame it on the sugar high and the fact that none of us ever grew up. We crack ourselves up every year though, which makes it, for me at least, an essential holiday tradition.
Christmas cards, like so many other things around the holidays, seem to have an etiquette all their own.
I’ve never understood the whole, card for card thing. People are thrown into an absolute panic if they get a card from someone who they didn’t send one too. You’d think they were wedding invitations and not once a year correspondence with people you don’t even call every decade.
And I’m never more conscious of how dysfunctional my family is, until I start trying to address my cards. Like, do I send one to my uncle’s current live in girlfriend? And do I send it to his home address and risk his ex spouse throwing it away in a fit of anger? Do I send one to my recently exed-aunt who hated almost everyone in the family or will that just look like I’m rubbing it in her face? I addressed one card, now already in the mail, to Mr. and Mrs. His-Last-Name, only to remember, after it had been mailed, that the Mrs. very specifically did NOT take his name when they married. Eventually I just throw up my hands and say “what the heck it’s just a card goshfriggindanggit” (or something to that effect) and put on the stamps.
All these land mines of potential family ire, often make me dread the summer family get togethers, where Aunt Myrtle will sniff resentfully at me because I sent one to Uncle Fred and Cousin Holly, but forgot her. But I’ll just do what I always do, smile and apologize. What else can I do? It’s just a card. It’s just a gesture. And I don’t know about you folks, but I’m human and prone to make the occasional mistake.
So here’s a picture of me and my crazy christmas smile for you lot who did not get a card from me, and even to the others who did.