Sunday, December 11, 2005

Holiday Spirit

I've spent the majority of my 3-day weekend in our apartment with my roommate Jenn. Both of us took the day off on Friday (she was "sick", I just had extra time to take before the end of the year), and our other roommate's been out of town since she came home from work Friday evening. So the two of us have been hanging out together, only leaving for take-out food or a quick trip to the grocery store. I've been spending my time watching movies (I finally saw ET!), starting & finishing a book (Cash by Johnny Cash), and catching up on whatever else has been on TV (SNL, a Mafia series). I went out for a bit on Friday with Leslie & C, who I hadn't seen since Leslie's party. Despite Leslie's anxiety over any potential weirdness, there was none whatsoever.

Jenn's been baking. Sugar cookies cut out in candy canes, stockings, and stars. Peanut butter-Kiss cookies. Rice Krispie treats. Puppy Chow. The kitchen counter has been filled with these goodies, as well as jars of sprinkles, cinnamon candies, and chocolate chips. My will power has gone into overdrive.

All of this baking makes me wish I was going home earlier than Christmas Eve. Because it only takes 40 minutes for me to get from my apartment to my parents' house, I don't plan to spend a lot of time traveling home for the holidays unlike my friends who are not from Chicago. Even though I have a week and a half off at the holidays, I hadn't planned on spending most of it at home. I see myself wanting to come back to the city as soon as possible (both my roommates will be back, and Jill has all that time off too). But back to the baking.....

My mom and I used to bake at Christmastime every year. Maybe not every year, but when I look back I don't remember the years we didn't make cookies. As it happens whenever my mom embarks on a project, she went overboard on the baking. There were armies of sugar cookies on our kitchen table and counters: snowmen, gingerbread men, stars, trees, ornaments. We branched out into macaroons, chocolate wine balls, and truffles too (just last year we made the truffles and they were SO good). At first, I was responsible only for cutting out the shapes and decorating with the cinnamon dots or sprinkles. I took great pride in my cookie-decorating. Mom and I would spend hours and hours of a weekend or two just baking up a storm in the kitchen. I always got to lick the spoon or the mixers, and my dad would appear every so often to steal a freshly baked cookie or a piece of dough. Mom would scold him and later we would appease him by giving him the messed up cookies (or the ones I dropped on the floor).

My father loves Christmas music so there's a good chance he was playing it throughout the house while we baked. Every year on Christmas Day he made tapes of Christmas music on the radio, which he would then play for years to come. Once he finally had a CD player, I bought him some holiday CDs so he could replace the tapes. But every year those damn tapes make an appearance.

My mother and I are not so much into the Christmas music. I can take it once in awhile: just a few days before the holiday, on the holiday, or during a party. But the incessant playing of holiday music that begins around Thanksgiving drives me insane. So while we baked, Mom and I usually had the TV on, where we would watch movies like Holiday Inn or White Christmas in between rolling out dough or exchanging trays in the oven.

I was glad that my mom wanted to make the truffles last year. There's been a sharp decline in our holiday baking over the years, and we've received complaints from the family members. The truffles might not have equaled the sugar cookies, but the time I spent with my mom was just as sweet. So now, as I watch Jenn make trays of cookies, I wish that I would be spending more time at home so that Mom and I could do the same. Maybe I will have her prepare some recipes so that we can go into full baking mode when I come home on the 24th.

When I was with my mom over Thanksgiving, she regretted that we didn't have any holiday "traditions". Maybe that's why neither of us gets excited about the holidays; we keep in our minds the memories of family fights or obligations and neglect to think about the weekends spent making cookies or watching classic musicals. Because as I think about this kind of quality time I had at home, I get more excited about being there in a few weeks.

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