When I was young- between 8 and teenage years (I was a pretty easy teenager, enjoying family and family friend events) my brother and I would head to Ali and John's (family friends) for cookie making and tree decorating. We would roll out gingerbread dough on counters sprinkled with flour, cutting out trees, snowmen, gingerbread men, stars and circles. Being careful to push hard, make sure the cookie cutters did their job and we got perfectly cut out shapes.
As they baked in the oven, filling the house with smells of warm sugar, we'd prepare the table with pastry bags of colored frostings, sprinkles, silver balls and colored sugar. As the cookies came out of the oven we'd layer them on the table and dive in. I'd use reds, blues and greens to make snowmen with scarves, male and female gingerbread people and circles of frosting layered with color sugar. We'd lick our fingers between cookies, admiring our work, wondering which we should eat first.
When all the cookies were decorated we'd move them to the counter, so we could admire them as we set the table for the next event- tree decorating. Ali would put her boxes of ornaments on the table as we lined the tree with lights and garlands. We'd take out each ornament, admiring it, asking about it. Some we recognized from years previous when we'd made pasta angels that were spray painted gold, or painted ornament balls at school. I took great care in placing each one, knowing to put the heavier ones on stronger branches and ensuring that the tree looked balanced when I'd step back and survey the work thus far. As I got older I often remember doing most of the tree independently as Ali would decide which ornaments would go on and occupy Sammy who is 5 years younger than me.
I always looked forward to this day spent in the Christmas spirit. Yet, I never missed having my own tree to decorate. Spending time with Ali in her Christmas world was enough; it was what I looked forward to and enjoyed doing. I remember years when we would arrive after lunch and the next we knew it was dark out and the tree lit up the room. I never even wanted my own tree, or really though of decorating Ali's as doing something Christmassy. It was more about spending time in her warm house and playing with ornaments and sweet frosting.I look forward to a time when I can bring my children to Ali's house. To make ornaments that will be hung, cookies that will be eaten and watch them pick and choose where to hang each ornament, knowing that some were made in that kitchen by their mother. And in my mind it won't be about Christmas, it will be about family and friends and how the time of year can bring them together, to share warmth, love and traditions.