I was hanging lights from the peak of the roof one year, and as I reached out for the farthest hook, trying to recall whether our insurance covered three-story falls, a small crowd gathered in the yard near the ladder. This is somewhat of a Holiday tradition. My wife sends the kids out to see if Dad’s done a header, and the four of them stand shoulder to shoulder on the lawn and watch, ready to dash back in the house to report as soon as it happens.
Now, that’s an invitation to joke. So, I swung one arm around my head, wobbled back and forth, and made like I was losing my balance. Which, for one icy moment of electric fear, high on the extension ladder and one hand’s reach too far from anything solid to grab onto, I did. The ladder screeched on the gutter, I leaned left, it stopped its slide, and then it was over. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. And, sorry to say, scared the kids, proper.
They hit the porch like the blitz and before I could get down to ground level had reappeared with their mother.
“What are you doing up there? The kids thought you were going to fall!”
“Just kidding around. All safe. How do they look?” I said, looking up.
“Not funny. Not one bit.” She motioned with her eyes to the kids. The elder girls looked angry, the small kids still wide-eyed. Not going to let it go. I started to reassure them, but their mother steered me off.
Now, my wife has a look. It’s exactly the look I imagine she would have used if we were standing at the altar to get married, and I said, ‘Can I think about it?’ when we got to the “I do’s”.
‘I have an idea’, she said, and gave me that look.
‘Would you like to make cutout Christmas cookies with your Father?’, she said. And to my surprise the frowns melted. Smiles came out. The neighbors came to the window to see who won the superbowl.
‘Now…’, I said, getting ready to explain why I’d be putting the chainsaw to some firewood rather than doing ballet with a rolling-pin and green frosting. But between the tugging and shouting, laughter and the look, I never got the chance.
I don’t know about you, but I remember my own mother, and grandmother, and cutout cookies at Christmas. Mostly, I remember how they rolled the dough just so, and carefully cut and then lifted the cookies onto baking pans ever so gently, so as not to break off heads or hands or tips of stars or trees in the process. And, I remember how they eventually gave in and just let me squash my broken attempts up into lumpy round Christmas balls. I became an expert at Christmas balls.
And I wasn’t looking forward to making more as an adult.
To make a long story short, I gave in. And, I was wrong. I ended up dusted in flour, with a real kitchen mess, a few dozen colorful cutout cookies and one pan burnt beyond eating, but four chirping, happy kids having the time of their life laughing at me and making cookies. We had a really good time. Holiday cheer. And they did some up specially, as gifts for Dad, to make up for my meager attempts.
After we put the kids to bed, my wife got busy with the pans and bowls.
“Now if you go and kill yourself, at least the kids will have one big happy Christmas memory to remember you by’, she said. And threw me the dish towel to dry.
If you decide to make some memories of your own, I’ve put up the best, failsafe cutout Holiday cookie recipe and complete instructions over at Dad’s In the Kitchen. Have a great time.