A week ago, I was at Trader Joe's and saw one of those Gingerbread House kits for just $6.99. I had to get it. I knew my kids would love it.
I was glad I did. I found out that my stepdaughter had never made a Gingerbread house. Adam and I have made a couple in past holiday seasons. Mel pointed out that her best friend Alexandra, who is visiting us this evening, gets to make one every year with her dad. We definitely had to make one.
I put the house together. I didn't read the instructions to the kit fully when I bought it (I probably didn't have my reading glasses with me when I bought it and couldn't), and it turned out that I needed confectioner's sugar to make the frosting. Fortunately, I did have it in the pantry (for sprinkling on french toast when I make it for the kids), so no problem. And what was most exciting was that I was finally able to use my pastry bag that I bought at Edward Don restaurant supplies five years ago. Why did I buy a pastry bag? Because every kitchen should have one, that's why. Even if you don't make pastries.
The frosting is the mortar that you hold the house together with, plus the candies are held on with it. Ironically, much of my father's side of the family were bakers. As you can see, it's a good thing that I did not choose that profession.
The kids didn't care. I brought it out to the dining room and they went to town decorating it. I hadn't realized that there were some candies already in the kit; the kit I'd purchased a couple of years ago had the confectioner's sugar, but not the candy. This one had the candy but not the confectioner's sugar. No problem. The kids loaded it up with both the candy that came with the kit and the candies I'd allowed them to pick out. Adam selected Sourpatch Kids, Mel chose Gummi Bears and Alexandra wanted the movie staple Dots.
The kids had a ball, and I had a blast watching them having fun. Over the years, I've learned to take pictures and and videotape when I think of it-- the pictures and images are priceless. I switched for a while to videotape. While videotaping, I had a chuckle when I realized that the shuffle on my ipod had called up Cracker's dysfunctional Christmas classic Merry Christmas, Emily. It'll be forever in the background of the happy Gingerbread House videotape.
After they finished, I let the kids eat some of the Gingerbread House and they retired to the living room to play video games. I'm always amused because they love playing old video games on the old Nintendo 64 that Kim and Mel brought with them when they moved in here.
In the wonderful miniseries From The Earth To The Moon, there's an episode entitled "That's All There Is." The title is, of course, a reference to the Peggy Lee classic Is That All There Is? The episode focuses on the Apollo 12 mission, the second mission to the moon and specifically Astronaut Alan Bean, played by Kid In the Hall alumnus Dave Foley. Bean, who missed out on space missions for various reasons, ended up being chosen to be one of the tiny group of people, 12 so far in human history, to walk on the surface of the moon.
Reporters had asked Bean how he felt that he didn't get to be the first person on the moon. He replied that he didn't care that if he'd been first, tenth or thousandth-- that he got to attain his dream of being one of the people to achieve this remarkable thing.
In the course of preparing for, and then accomplishing the mission, the other two astronauts, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon become his lifelong best friends. Bean realized that as amazing a life experience as his trip to the moon was, it was the fact that he had two friends to share the experience with that truly made it an experience of a lifetime.
One morning, a few years ago, before I met and married Kim, I woke up in a cold sweat. I didn't remember the dream I'd had, but it must have had something to do with my son and growing older. I woke up thinking that I had no business bringing a child into the world when there was going to be a day someday when I wouldn't be around; he'd have to spend his last twenty-five or thirty years without me.
When I decided a few years ago to start dating again after my divorce, I'd made the decision that I'd only date people who were parents. My rationale was that only someone who was already a parent could understand that kids always come first. I can't speak for anyone else, but I definitely married someone who gets that. And I think that for both of us, devoting enough energy and time to parenting has become easier, and when there isn't energy or time for one of us, the other's there to step in.
But for the kids, there have been benefits beyond that. Both of our kids were "only children" before this. We were nervous how they would deal with it all, blending our families. To our great relief, they've done marvelously. I guess we shouldn't have had any doubt-- both of our kids are the kind that go out of their way to be nice to other people, even when it's not the easy thing to do. Still, they were used to being the center of attention in their respective families up until that point. Now they have to share it. They have to compromise. But like Al Bean, they've seen that even the best experience is even better when you have someone to share and remember it with. I feel a huge sense of relief that when I check out some day, hopefully many, many years from now, they'll still have someone around, someone they've shared life's experiences with.