She’s making a holiday gift for her friends.
Wisely, she is giving them homemade treats.
At one point, she notes that a homemade gift really is the best.
So is having a younger brother who is both a good listener and a willing helper.
Because there are thirty-two squares of baking chocolate that need unwrapping.
And even though she has a recipe plan, all the ingredients on hand, and an evening set aside for this project…
…it is actually more complicated than she expected.
But then, when the loud lament of “Oh my God, I need so many crushed candy canes and Oreos” starts to repeat on a loop, I wander in and suggest the old “put the candy canes in a Ziploc and whale on them with a meat mallet” approach.
When the time for cream cheese comes, she asks how to soften it.
“Put the little bricks of it in your armpits,” her parents advise.
The lull doesn’t last long.
She doesn’t quite know what she’s doing, but she has opinions.
Yes, Dad, I know you would use the food processor. I’m not going to.
Paco, after I dunk each one, will you dust them with candy cane sprinkles?
Mostly, I am watching —
laughing at my kids cutting up.
In the moment with a thing unplanned —
not on the calendar as a mandated “special day” —
listening to the teasing and mock agonies of my children —
I know this is the real holiday.
We won’t all live together much longer. There’s a sharp-edged melancholy to this phase of life’s forward momentum, so overwhelming it makes me want to grip the counter and press my gut into the hard ridge of the thing.
I make my brain stop thinking about the future and, instead, relax into this warmly lit evening of pipping and sparking in the kitchen.
When social media entered her life, I suggested she start a Tumblr named “Licking the Brownie Bowl.”
She did. It suits her.
NO ONE gets between her and a bowl that needs licking.
A few feet away, having eked out his own safe space in the fashion of a younger sibling, Paco layers of remnant chocolate with layers of candy cane shards, then more chocolate, then more candy canes, building a tower of yummy on his fingertips.
From the girl, there is much exasperated sighing. This process was not supposed to take three hours.
Stuff is sticky. Hard. Messy.
A few feet away, from that safe space he’s eked out in the fashion of a younger sibling, Paco critiques, “It’s not turning out because you’re not making it with love. Your food needs to be made with love. LOVE IS BOUNDLESS AND LIMITLESS, and you aren’t putting that into your cooking. Try adding boundless, limitless love, and then it will taste better.”
He is the best. She is the best.
This evening is the best.
It’s made even better once all the truffles are chilled, boxed, and labeled — because that’s when the girl, the young woman who’s just starting to figure out the power and expanse of her mess, comes into the tv room to announce a revelation:
“Those things you put on your hands shouldn’t be called oven mitts, you know. They should be called glovens.”