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The Gingerbread House
By Tammy Tillotson
Considering myself to be a true Southerner, I simply refuse to buy Christmas decorations before Christmas. At any given time theres enough wrapping paper, paraphernalia and supplies in my closet stash to help Santas elves save the next two years of Christmas should there ever be an unexpected shortage at the North Pole. Its not that Im excessively frugal, but mainly because I have little patience or tolerance for shopping during the holiday rush. That was the case even before I had children, so now its impossibly out of the question for me.
In fact, this past December I realized just how much I disliked holiday shopping as I frantically searched the house for a handful of paper clips and some scrap 18-gauge wire, which could easily be bent into ornament hangers. Im certain this is a Southern trick of the trade thats coexisted with Christmas since the invention of the paper clip. I know there were a number of years where probably few members of my family didnt have at least one or two, if not dozens, of paper clip hangers on their trees. Now that I think about it, I cant say for sure if my Grandma ever really used anything besides paper clips. But, for those of you not from around here, next time you visit during the holidays Id definitely encourage you to take a good hard look at the decorated trees. I assure you its possible to conduct this sort of inspection relatively unnoticed by an otherwise oblivious hostess, and Im even willing to bet youd quickly understand exactly what Im talking about.
We just cant help it as it comes from living along dirt roads where its quicker and easier to just use what is readily available than to make an extra trip into town. We love Christmas but ornament hangers are just something we dont think about first.
So, on a bitter cold Thursday in the middle of January, an extra box of ornament hangers was the only reason I found myself meandering the aisles of Wal-Marts 75% off holiday leftovers with two rather antsy little ones in tow. The one item on our agenda, in addition to a few groceries, was ornament hangers.
While Ive never been, nor shall I ever be, one of those mothers who gives in at the slightest little bit of whimpering or incessant chants of, But Mommy I want that...but, but, but, Mommy I really really need that, I will admit having to stop the buggy in its tracks when my three-year-old excitedly starting shouting and pointing, Look Mommy, theres my gingerbread house!
There it sat, perfectly at toddler eye level on its shelf and close enough for my son to reach right out, grab it, and hurriedly hold on to it for dear life. The last lone, already-fully-assembled, complete with everything-you-need-to-make-it, gingerbread house kit in the entire Wal-Mart store. Lucky us!
Now I have to admit...even when theyre 75% off and come fully assembled, making cookie and candy houses with a rambunctious three-year-old and an almost two-year-old is not something I instantly want to jump up and down with glee over. I see visions of icing that looks like snow but sticks like gorilla glue hardened worse than sticky bubblegum in hair that is already rambling with ducktails and maybe a bit of syrup that I missed from breakfast. So, despite the fact that my son had continued to ask daily when Mommy and Daddy were getting the new gingerbread house, my spontaneous reaction was one of hesitation and slight cringing.
Forgive me, I breathed. I know I should know better. Especially when the sheer delight on my sons face is absolutely priceless. After all he had found the gingerbread house of his dreams, and in his mind the hunt had ended.
As I hesitated another moment, my sons face turned a bit more serious as he debated with me why it would be okay to bring this little house home with us. This is the part where I know he is truly my child as he states rather matter-of-factly and a bit too sternly, But Mommy, we can buy this because it is on sale.
For a brief moment I hear in his determined little voice all the many times in my life that I have either heard or spoken the words myself, We dont need that, and besides its not on sale. My son, even at three, can tell Im debating this issue whether I want to be or not, and in one last defense says, But Mommy I have money. I can buy this.
And, hes right. Thursday is allowance day at our house and each week he receives two dollars. I recognize thats a bit inflated from my quarter days growing up, but for a three-year-old he feels like a millionaire. Now I realize some people may think its ridiculous to give a three-year-old a two dollar allowance, but let me also add that he has certain chores around our house that he is expected to do daily and he is also expected to save some of his money or do something nice for someone else with part of it. My husband and I really want our children to earn, know, and appreciate the value of a dollar, and for our family, we find this arrangement works well even though three is certainly an age that understands the selfishness of me, me, me. To our sons credit, he generally uses his money to pick out a special snack at the grocery store that he shares with his brother, (sometimes even his Daddy), and rarely does he ever request something frivolous.
He interrupts my thoughts, in more of a question than a statement, Mommy, I can buy this with my monies?
Not knowing the price of the gingerbread house I honestly answer, Honey Im not sure what it costs but well find out.
He smiles, elated as he is going to be able to do his next favorite thing to do besides just going in Wal-Mart. Yep. The infamous Price Checker. There have been countless Wal-Mart trips where I have been so thankful for this miraculous little invention! Whoever dreamed that up Id like to personally thank for coming up with the single greatest way to keep restless children entertained at Wal-Mart. Whats so great about it is that its free and if you dont have quarters for the games and ride-on toys out front this has got to be the next best thing! That and you can play Hide-and-Go Price Checking throughout the store as theres generally one in every department! This tactic also works great to get husbands out of somewhere theyre liable to spend a lot of money Hey honey can you find out what this costs for me? I think I saw a price checker over near the _______ aisle (fill in the blank with somewhere you know he doesnt go too often, like the exercise aisle, and then sweetly say, Ill meet ya there in a sec).
So, all the way to the Price Checker, my son hugged the gingerbread house box to his chest and excitedly explained to his little brother, We are gonna make this gingerbread house. Do you see? And we can buy it cause it is on sale.
My little one squealed and laughed as if he understood exactly what his big brother was saying, though I knew better. He was eyeing the gumdrops in the photos as his favorite part of reading the I Spy Little Christmas book over the holidays had been eagerly pointing out the gumdrops and other candies. He might not have understood his big brothers talk about gingerbread houses, but he definitely understood gumdrops.
When we finally found a price checker, my son proudly announced, No Mommy, I can do it. I can do. I showed him where the bar code was and he watched for the red light to scan it. A moment later he heard the beep and asked again, Mommy, I can buy it with my monies?
I looked at the price checker and read the abbreviated description GB HOUSE.....$2.00.
My son, while waiting for my answer, had still been trying to convince his little brother, It is on sale and I can buy it with my monies.
He looked from his little brother to me, and as his blue eyes met mine, he asked pleadingly, Mommy, what does it cost?
I looked at the price checker once more and smiled back at him. Honey, it costs two dollars.
The rest of our Wal-Mart trip, my son hugged the gingerbread house kit to his chest as if he truly had found the house of his dreams. He told complete and total strangers anyone we passed that would listen We are gonna make this gingerbread house! And I am buying it with my own monies!
As we checked out with our groceries and the gingerbread house, he paid the cashier his two dollars, and I really couldve hugged the woman as she took his money, never said a word about tax, and happily handed him back the gingerbread house so he could continue hugging it to his chest through the parking lot and out to our vehicle. He insisted his gingerbread house would be sad in the hatchback compartment of our Jeep. It wouldve been much happier had he been allowed to hold it, and he only relented when I told him it needed to ride flat so it wouldnt break. Then somehow we made it through lunch and naptime, though not without insistent argument that is was definitely time to make the gingerbread house.
When it was indeed time to decorate the gingerbread house, my son ignored my words of caution that gingerbread houses were fragile, and in his over excitement, one side of the roof caved in as he was taking it out of the box. Prepared for his complete devastation, I was amazed at his calmness when he said, But Mommy thats ok. We can fix it.
And we did. First, I mixed up the white snow gorilla glue icing and repaired the roof. Good as new. Even I was impressed. Second, both boys had nervous breakdowns over gumdrops the little one mistakenly thought the only thing we were supposed to do with the gumdrops was eat them, while my other son screamed that the little one needed to stop eating the gingerbread house because it wasnt done yet. Third, we learned how to share but not without a whole lot of tears and a whole lot fewer gumdrops than what probably should have been put on the house. Fourth, the little one, as he was still throwing a tantrum over gumdrops, finger painted beautiful white snow gorilla glue designs on my kitchen table...chairs...seat cushions...and a little even got on Alphabettas aquarium.
I think it always works that way, as regardless of my watchful eye, theres this split-second flash when the little one decides hes finished helping or has had enough before I can safely readjust everything that might be potentially hazardous out of his reach. A big bowl of white snow gorilla glue was no exception. Yet, by the end of a rather exhausting hour there was this slightly odd-looking gingerbread house.
Though the adventure may not have been quite what I was expecting, I couldnt have agreed more when my son looked at our creation and proudly shouted, This is the bestest, most greatest, fantastic, most wonder-fullest gingerbread house of forever and ever, and ever and ever.
Tammy Tillotson is a freelance writer in Chase City, Virginia. She is the editor of the upcoming Writers Studio Young Authors Anthology entitled Bull Bay Review.
You can E-Mail Tammy Tillotson at: firstname.lastname@example.org
PO Box 1061
South Boston, VA 24592
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