Last evening was the first of what I hope to be many wonderful years of Christmas time memories. We decorated Christmas cookies. I know, I know, that's so cliché to say. Isn't decorating cookies as a family a requirement - at least once - while your kids are young?
There's something so magical about the build-up to the moment. If you're family is like ours, you go to the store to buy the ingredients because you don't have them in the cupboard like most. One person takes the kids (in this case it was me) while the other stays at home making last minute preparations, and the one doing the shopping calls the one at home to ask what ingredients are needed, only to have to wait for the person at home to get on Recipe Czar and find out.
Once you get to the store, in our case it was Walmart, you walk the aisles of the grocery section finding the perfect ingredients. Passing the baking powder, you spend five minutes looking for vanilla, you forget about the sprinkles and various colorful toppings, you go to the back of the store to get the butter, come back to the front to find candy, and eventually you have it all...once you go back through the middle of the grocery and find the baking powder. Then, after you find all of these ingredients, you realize - just in time - that you don't have cookie cutters. So you walk nearly every square inch of Walmart looking for cutters only to find that they placed an entire aisle of Christmas cookie decorating supplies, complete with cookie cutters (and baking powder), in an aisle next to the linens. Of course! Towels, picture frames, cookie supplies.
After you fight through the throngs of the other 2,000 last-minute gift and supplies shoppers, pay for your goods, get the kids' coats back on, and dredge the cart through the slushy wintery mix that blasted your town during the past hour of Walmart hell, you can finally head home to begin your homemade Rockwell Christmas.
Inside, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick, Jr. and Barry Manilow adorn your Spotify playlist. You find your rolling pin that was thrown in the back of the cabinet after regretfully doing this last year; you clear off the counter top and the magic begins. Batch after batch of crispy golden Christmas delight comes out of the oven. The kids are hopped-up on cream cheese icing by now, the tops of the sugar sprinkle canisters are clogged with icing because your youngest - if he's like mine - can't quit doing sugar shots with them, and momma is already dreading 4 more batches that daddy is preparing to pull out of the oven.
Then it happens. The final cookie is frosted, sprinkled, and topped with a non-traditional Hershey's Kiss. The kids are shuffled down the hallway to the bathroom to have their faces, hands, forearms, foreheads, hair, ears, necks, elbows, and bellies, wiped off before going to bed. They crash from the massive sugar high they have been riding, the house quiets and mom and dad get some time to clean up and have a couple of cookies in peace.
But there was something about this year that made me pause over and over, whether I was in Walmart jockeying for those Hershey's Kisses or pulling the icing spoon from my youngest child's clasp again and again. It was a thought that caused me to continuously give thanks to God for the blessings and memories we were enjoying before our eyes, and not get hung up on a messy kitchen or frosting-stained children and clothes.
It was the thought of all of those who don't get the opportunity to spend Christmas with their children this year. While I warm my bones from fighting the slushy parking lot at Walmart to go home and decorate cookies with my family, many families on the east coast have no home at all. While I dig my cart of kids and groceries through the snow, 28 graves are being dug in Connecticut. The list of analogies could go on and on, but I wanted to take a moment and ask you all to be thankful during the busyness of the holidays.
Be thankful if you are able to watch your kids open presents around your tree on Christmas morning. Be thankful if you have those 4 or 5 basic ingredients for a batch of cookies, as well as the basic ingredients that make a complete family. We can go crazy and flip out over the proverbial spilled milk, or we can be glad that we have little ones after which to clean up. We can go crazy and flip out over the long lines at Walmart, or we can be glad that we have the funds and resources to go shopping. We can be filled with anger and a little bit of rage while we drive 20mph below the speed limit on our way home in windy and icy conditions, or we can be thankful that we still have a house to walk into and call home.
Take a few minutes after you read this to pause and give thanks.