Today is the highest of solemnities in Camera Girl’s kitchen calendar. I, even I, am banned from encroaching on the rituals being performed. And I’m no fool. Interfering with the magic going on risks the spoiling of those spells and the blighting of the baked goods being produced; a horror not to be imagined.
Today Camera Girl and her daughters and now her granddaughter will gather like a coven of witches and take their magic ingredients and hover around the stove and drink coffee (or hot chocolate in the case of Princess Sack of Potatoes) and knead dough and add vanilla extract and hand shape the grandma cookies and the chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and whichever new variants they decide on.
And wondrous aromas will waft through the house and when they’re through there will be a pile of cookies to get us through to New Year’s Day. Splendiferous confections that turn a coffee break into a feast. And make watching an old movie into a special event.
But even ignoring the practical results of this activity, this is a primary ritual of our domestic calendar. The hand written recipes are coming on fifty years. The paper is beginning to crumble and the writing is fading from exposure to ingredients and wear and tear. I’ve warned Camera Girl that they need to be copied and digitized, printed out and distributed to her daughters to preserve them from loss. But if it’s going to be done, I’ll have to take on the project.
I look at some of the recipes and the notes on them and see the names of friends and relatives from long ago. Only one or two living women are represented. Most are from our parents’ and grandparents’ generation. A few go even farther back.
And that’s a comforting legacy. In these times when fools are trying to deconstruct the meaning of man and woman and sever the traditions that have given meaning to our lives, there still exist people and rituals that ground our lives and make them human and pleasant. Baking cookies may seem to some people to be a trivial and possibly harmful activity in a world of obese people. But it’s exactly opposite. Christmas cookies are a special and specific part of the year. Once they’re done, we don’t make more. We move onto the winter months when we subsist on meager fare, far removed from the bounty of summer and fall. Christmas is a celebration and an ending of the year and needs to be treated as such.
So, I will withdraw from the kitchen and keep myself busy with other things while the women commune with their flour and butter. From time to time, I’ll find an excuse to walk by the kitchen and see how things are going. And maybe my granddaughter will come visit with me for a game of Candy Land. But for the most part I’ll leave them to their industry and their talk. And before I go to bed there will be the hoard of golden and white and brown cookies in various cookie jars and containers. And of course, there will be a big mug of coffee and one or two (or even three) cookies waiting for me to enjoy during a holiday movie. God bless you Camera Girl and long may you bake.