Posts Tagged ‘xmas’

Trimming the Tree

I meant to get up early to exercise like I usually do on Saturdays, but dad and I went out to eat last night, and then I stayed up until around 2 a.m. drinking prosecco, doing laundry, and cleaning my apartment. Eight o’clock came a bit too early for me. So here’s another day of me eating too much and being a couch potato. I hope I can get things back on track soon. My pants are getting tight! I’m going to a NC Peace Corps potluck tonight, mainly to pick up a shirt and calendar I’ve already paid for. I didn’t even have time to make anything: I’m bringing some potato salad from Whole Foods. I did put it in a Pyrex dish, though, so at least that shows SOME effort! đŸ˜‰

I got to my parents’ house around 12:15. I made two batches of dough for my mom’s mom’s ice box rolls last night so they’d be ready to roll out this morning. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find the biscuit cutter that mom used, but she was kind enough to hang it on one of the ends of the rolling pin.

I’ve never made these before. And while I watched my mom make them every year, I only had one lesson, and that was back when I was around 11 or 12, I think. She made me take careful notes because you can’t just use a written recipe: there are tips and tricks that  can only be passed in person. I have that recipe card that I wrote up somewhere, but luckily mom has notes scribbled all over hers. Her recipe card was written by her mom (actually, typed out on a typewriter, like most of mom’s mom’s recipes), and then there are mom’s handwritten notes squeezed in between the typewritten lines. That was enough to get me through making the dough, but there weren’t any notes about what happens when you roll them out. All of that, I remembered. A small miracle. I can remember almost everything my mom taught me all those years ago. I can see where I was sitting, and I can watch her rolling out the dough and explaining things to me. I wasn’t very interested, so it’s amazing that I remember so much.

I think I did a pretty good job. I know what I could have done better, but since it was my first time, I think mom would be proud. She always let hers rise in the sun, but since there wasn’t any, I let mine rise in the oven like mom’s mom did (she didn’t have a table in a sunny spot).

I’m not going to eat them, so I guess I can’t speak to how they turned out. They look great. But not only am I gluten-free, I’m turned off by the ingredients on the Crisco jar. I might try my hand at making a healthier version. I think it would work just as well with gluten-free all-purpose flour, and I bet the vegan shortening would work in place of Crisco. It’ll be on my to-do list. In the meantime, as mom’s best friend said, this batch is going to make for several happy people. Mom’s ice box rolls are something everyone looks forward to on Christmas. I don’t know how mom did it, though. I mean, my two batches of dough made six pans. She must have been baking every weekend to have enough rolls to hand out!

Mom’s best friend (let’s call her S for brevity’s sake) arrived right as I was finishing the last pan. It was great timing since she was bringing extra pie plates and I needed one more for the leftover dough (it’s too tough to roll back out, so mom always made a giant roll for me to nosh on…I’m passing it on this year). I asked S if she’d help with decoration, so we set to trimming the tree.

It is smaller than usual. It makes me think of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, even though they have nothing in common. Charlie’s tree was scraggly and almost dead; this one is lush and beautiful. Maybe it’s just that Charlie gave the tree a second chance, and maybe this tree is giving us a second chance.

(Off topic, but how did the Peanuts theme become a Christmas song? I know they play it in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but they also play it on Halloween and on every Peanuts show. I don’t understand how it made it into the regular Christmas rotation.)

S and I set to work. At some point, several years ago, mom had amassed so many Annalee ornaments that she decided to trim the tree with only those ornaments and photo ornaments. So that’s what we did. I’m sure it’s different than mom would have done, but I think it’s beautiful. Dad has to put the angel on the top still, and then I’ll share a picture with you fine folks.

My favorite discovery was a Willow Tree ornament from another of mom’s best friends…we’ll call him B. It was dated last year, and it had a note that said something like, “I hope this ornament will remind you of everyone who is praying for you.” It’s a little angel. I put it front and center. Even though it’s not an Annalee.

S helped me put the stockings on the mantle (I couldn’t remember the order…I think dad’s is on the far right, then mom to the left, then me, then the animals, but I can’t recall if I have mom’s and dad’s backwards). She also set up the nativity scene on the dining room table, the one made of Israeli wood. When I went back to look at what was left, I was overwhelmed. There are hundreds (no exaggeration) of Annalees, some wreathes, lights, statues, towels, candles, pillows (so many pillows!), toilet-seat covers, rugs, door hangers, china trees…the Christmas closet is the size of a walk-in and is overflowing with decorations. Mom LOVED Christmas, and she LOVED entertaining. I just can’t bring myself to do it. S walked by the guest bathroom on the way back to the closet to return some Annalees, and she asked if we should just put them in there since we had them. I said that then we’d have to do the towels, and the toilet-seat cover, and the candles…once you start, it’s a never-ending chore. I don’t know if dad wants to do more (I don’t think he does), but I’m not sure I can handle it. I think the tree and the mantle are just right, at least for this year. The tree itself was a lot of work! So worth it, though.

I really miss mom. I hung out in her room for a little while (dad’s out and won’t be back for a bit). She always kept a little roll-o-deck (is that what they’re called?) of prayer requests that she went through every single morning. She started with praise for prayers answered (once a prayer was answered, she’d flip the little piece of paper over that had the prayer request and then write the praise on the back), then crisis requests, then requests for family, then friends, etc. I was struck by the entries for her cancer. She was thankful her treatments worked for as long as they did. She prayed for a new drug that would cure her cancer permanently. She prayed for strength for dad. She prayed that I’d move closer so I’d be here for him. She prayed thanks for the drugs that worked and prayed that the ones she’d started would too. She prayed that she wouldn’t have pain, and I don’t think she ever did. She also prayed that she would never experience fear. She didn’t get all of her wishes, but she got many.

I wish she were here. I wish I could come home to a fully decorated house and the smell of her rolls in the oven. I’m dreading her empty chair on Christmas morning. But I’m thankful for everything that she was and for everything she passed down to me, from the tips to make ice box rolls to her unconditional love.

Merry Christmas, mom. I hope you can see the lights on the tree. They’re for you.


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