Yesterday I began making Christmas cookies for the upcoming holiday. As I measured the flour, chopped nuts, and formed dough into one inch balls, something strange popped into my head. I never made Christmas cookies with my mother. Never, not once did she share that commonly-practiced loving bond of tradition with me. And now, of course since her passing, we will never have that opportunity.
So I asked myself "why" didn't we ever measure flour, chop nuts, and form dough into one inch balls together those many years ago? Or "why" didn't we roll dough and cut out angels, Santas, and stars together in her kitchen?
I can only conjecture at this point. But since we lived with my Baba and Zedo in their house, the holiday baking occurred in my grandmother's kitchen. Baba and my mother did all the baking. They made nut and poppyseed rolls together; they shaped dough into squares and filled them with fine fruits which we called "kolachi," together, and they filled and fried dough then dusted them with powdered sugar together. They talked, complained and laughed about life together. Their mother and daughter bond became stronger and stronger as heavenly aromas floated through the air and golden brown delights were pulled from the oven.
I wish I would have experienced that holiday togetherness with my mother, too. It would have been a chance for us to become closer and share stories that remained untold. It would have provided me with tales I could now share with my own daughters and my grandchildren as well.
But, if I sound resentful, I'm not. It's not that our parents and grandparents didn't love and care for us, it's just that our place in the family structure for the most part was one of dependency. They birthed us, and they fed, clothed, and housed us. Words like "nurturing and bonding" were never used. How could they have been? Nobody had ever heard of them before. We were to do our chores, stay out of trouble, and pretty much stay out of the way. So inviting their children to make Christmas cookies simply wasn't a consideration.
As I continued baking my holiday specialties, something else occurred to me. I never made Christmas cookies with my own children. At first, I thought them to be to young to engage in the intricacies of baking. Then, I usually did my baking when they were in school. I could focus more clearly when they were out of the house and have the peace and quiet I absolutely loved during the otherwise hubbub of holiday preparations. After school, my children couldn't wait to change clothes and either dash outside to go sledding with friends or bring those friends inside for a rousing game of monopoly. Although "nurturing and bonding" were definitely words in my vocabulary, strangely enough I never associated them with making Christmas cookies.
So I wonder if my own children wished we could have experienced that holiday togetherness in my kitchen. A time when we could have talked, complained, and laughed about life while measuring flour, chopping nuts, and rolling dough into one inch balls. Do they resent the fact that they were never included in that loving traditional bonding? I intend to ask them if they do and attempt to explain myself as clearly as possible.
I know my daughters bake Christmas cookies with their children and have been doing so since the kids were very little. They tell me about all the fun they have and are proud to display their decorated creations. The words "nurturing and bonding" are now not only known and used by their mothers, but certainly practiced as well. Their children will have wonderful memories of baking Christmas cookies and of the stories that were told while doing so. They will long remember the nurturing and bonding they felt in their mothers' kitchens as adults and most probably hand down that glorious tradition to their children, too.