It finally happened. I’ve become one of those people who hear themselves say they are not into the holidays.
It’s been that way for more than a few years now. Come December 21, and I haven’t cleaned my house or wrapped a gift, I’m right on schedule. My husband is the one who chooses to put up a live tree, and he likes to do so on December 23 or so. Fraser fir – those are his trees. He leaves them up for months, and I’m okay with that. The beauty and the smell of the tree add to the charm of the quiet winter months.
When I was a child, it was always the older people who would say the holidays just didn’t do much for them anymore. They would tell stories of holidays past when they decorated their houses. They spent lots of time in the kitchen making cookies and such. They hung garlands and lights. They wore themselves out.
I would hear them justify their lack of enthusiasm by saying they are older now. They would often say they were out of energy. It seemed that older people were happy with a tiny tree of some sort. The ceramic plug-in tree from the 1970s was good enough for them.
Somehow making the statement that you are older gets you out of some of the holiday fussing.
But isn’t it heartwarming to see their enthusiasm return when they are invited to be a guest at a ladies holiday luncheon?
Fudge? They’re not into it. Too much sugar. Until the plate of chocolate is passed before them, and the smell is in the air. Then someone points out the peanut butter fudge on yet another tray passed before them. Just a small piece will do.
Homemade maple clusters? And who made this toffee? A small piece never hurt anyone. The next thing you know someone asks for the recipe – just for safekeeping. And maybe we should take a couple pieces of candy home. The holiday paper napkin works well as a wrapper.
Then the ladies decide they should get together more often, so they plan a lunch date. Bring a gift for a gift exchange, they say. Not anything expensive. The next thing you know, the ladies who are out of energy dress up in their best red sweater and jingle bell earrings. They wait for the lady (who is deemed the best driver) to pick them up.
When I was a young mother, I made Mrs. Sailor’s Kindergarten Sugar Cookies. If you grew up in Edgerton, and you are just a little “older,” you know Mrs. Sailor was the kindergarten teacher way back when.
Quite frankly, every batch of cookies was perfect, because I had it down to a science. I would make plenty of extra cookies and take them to holiday gatherings. I’m no longer into the cookie making thing, so I’m thankful my daughters have taken over the job.
My mother didn’t make fudge or holiday cookies of any sort, but she did put the same decorations out each year. Our black-and-white photos from the 1950s show how live trees were decorated at that time. Tinsel and all. At some point in the 1960s, my parents bought an aluminum tree, and they used color film in their camera. The gifts below the tree reveal the now vintage look on the wrapping paper. If Mom had saved any of that paper, it was because she wanted to reuse it and not for me to find someday.
I remember going to my Grandma and Grandpa Imm’s house on Christmas Day. In my mind, it was the most magnificent house in town, appropriately sitting on top of the most magnificent hill.
It was the perfect place for cousins to meet at the top of the hill and go sledding after lunch.
Grandma and Grandpa put their small silver tree in their living room window, and I can read about it in one of Mom’s newspaper clippings.
It made me think there should be a Good News Newspaper. Most of us would agree that things such as the same tree sitting in the same window for 25 years ought to make the headlines. No bad news allowed in this newspaper.
Who would be the editor of such a paper?
Bah humbugging would not be allowed in the Good News Newspaper. Events such as the Ladies Day Holiday Tea would make headlines. We would want to read who attended, and they could even list who-drove-whom to the luncheon. As we get older, it’s especially important to know who can still drive at night and who can handle driving on an interstate highway.
The recipes from the Ladies Day Tea would be included in the Good News Recipe Column.
Would coverage of ball games be allowed in the Good News Newspaper? After all, the losing team might object to reading all about the game they lost.
How about the changing of a car tire by a guy who stops to help out? It’s not good news that the car broke down, but it is good news that someone stopped to help. I do believe if I were the editor of the Good News Newspaper, I would write about all the good things people are doing for each other. I’d even go to the scene of the broken-down car, and although it may be embarrassing for the person who is changing the tire, I would take a picture of it being repaired.
The story of cousins and friends sledding down a hill and the building of snowmen would certainly be newsworthy. Skateboarding and rollerblading? News such as that would be in the Good News Newspaper along with a photo.
Would ads for an auction of a family estate be allowed in the Good News Newspaper? The auctioning of a house is good news for the family who will be moving into their new home but perhaps bittersweet for those who have a reason to move out.
My mother saved the auction flyer from 1944 when Grandma and Grandpa Imm moved from their farmhouse on State Route 6. They were moving into their home in town on Clarksville Road. My grandparents lived there until Grandpa sold the house and contents in 1975.
Oh, how I would love to travel back in time and mosey through the auction tables. I would like to hear what was said and see the prices that were paid for the items that another family would begin using.
In the 1978 Edgerton PTO cookbook, you can find Mrs. Sailor’s recipe for sugar cookies. I started making them in high school. I remember working on rolling the cookie dough out to just the right thickness and baking them to just the right doneness. Then it was the Jiffy brand boxed white frosting mix that seemed to make the difference.
One thing I don’t do is keep a recipe as a secret. The passing along of a good recipe is truly a gift from the heart. It’s a way of saying we care for our friends, and we want them to have what we have. We know they will likely be thinking of us when they use our recipe.
Years ago I wrote all the tips and tricks needed to help others in their attempt at making a good roll-out cookie. I had learned a lot from my husband’s mother. Her pastries and pies were so perfect, you would have thought they were made by the pastry chef at the local bakery.
The papers I am finding in my parents’ estate are simply papers that tell me there was a lot going on. The old newspapers and diaries chronicle many births and deaths. The tragedies made the news. The joys made the news.
It may just be that by the time a person reaches old age and hears themself say, “I’m 83 years old, but I don’t feel old,” they are also left wondering why it took so long to be so smart.
Older people know how much work it took to climb to the top of the hill where they now find themselves standing. There was a lot of good and a lot of bad along the way. They may have decided it’s time to simply enjoy the ride back down the hill. It’s time to put it in neutral. Others can look at them and think they’re humbugging or maybe they’re out of energy, but it’s just that they are living in their wisest years.
Could it be it takes the passage of time before we typically figure out that the secret to life is enjoying the passage of time?
The official word for someone who has reached their 80th birthday is “octogenarian.” Those in their 90s are a “nonagenarian.” A person between 100 and 109 is a “centenarian,” and those who reach 110 are “supercentenarians.”
I’m not into name-calling, but being referred to as an octogenarian would typically be seen as a great thing. You get to say funny things like, “I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday,” and the children will wonder what that means. What a privilege it is to have an older person as a friend in our lives.
Mrs. Sailor was born in 1915 and passed away in 2008 at the age of 93. She probably baked more than a few cookies in her day. If there were such a thing as the Good News Recipe Column, her recipe for Kindergarten Sugar Cookies would certainly be shared.
Cookie bakers everywhere bring out their heart-shaped cookie cutters each year during the month of February – a month when we are especially good at letting others know how much they are loved.
In honor of Mrs. Sailor and cookie bakers everywhere, I leave you with her recipe, along with all the tips and tricks I had documented.
Kindergarten Sugar Cookies
2 sticks butter 2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar 1 tsp soda
3 eggs ½ tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp vanilla 4 cups flour
Allow butter and eggs to come to room temperature.
Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Add vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar. Mix.
Add flour and mix well.
Chill several hours or overnight. Roll out and cut out.
Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes depending on size of cookie.
*Roll the dough out about ¼ inch thick
*Bake on flat baking sheet with no sides on it
*Each cookie sheet should have the same shape cut-out so they finish baking at the same time
*Leave at least an inch between all cookies
*I bake only one tray at a time
*Don’t overbake. Cookies should be slightly tan on the bottom and yellow on top
*These cookies freeze well
*One batch makes approximately 40 cookies
1 stick softened butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
© Marlene Oxender 2022