I lived with my sister, Caryl, the first Christmas after her husband died. Nothing was going to make that year better for my niece, Kellie, and nephews, Kenny and Lenny, but I did everything I could to keep some cheer in their lives. I often packed their school lunches and put special treats in the boxes. That day’s treat was often the first thing each child exclaimed about as he or she came through the door at the end of the school day.
As is traditional in my family, Christmas found me doing a lot of baking. When I made the rolled and cut sugar cookies, I hit upon the idea of not just decorating them, but painting them and making them trully beautiful. I made buttercream frosting in a half-dozen different colors, and I painted the Christmas trees green with brown trunks and yellow stars. I decorated them in multico;ored sprinkles. Santa’s sled was red, the runners were gold, and the presents inside came in many hues. I painted and sprinkled stars, angels, bells, and more — each with an eye to detail.
The house smelled like cookies when the kids came home from school. I gave them undecorated cookies and the left over frosting so they could design their own after school snacks. The cookies I had decorated were hidden.
That night, after the kids went to bed I took out the hidden cookies, wrapped them carefully, and placed them with love in each lunch box. The next day I waited anxiously by the door when, Lenny, a kindergartener only in school a half day, was due home.
Sure enough, he burst through the door, his face shining with joy. He cried, “Aunt Charlene! Aunt Charlene! Your cookies were the best!”
Naturally I beamed with pride.
He thrust out one gubby little hand with an ancient yellow yo-yo clasped in his fist, “I traded them for this!”
Before my ego completely crumbled I reminded myself that I’d made the cookies to make him happy, and they had obviously been a success. Then he added frosting to my contentment by asking anxiously, “You still have some of them cookies left don’t you? Can I have some?”