In a house no bigger than a cozy cafe tucked on the streets of a small town, the aroma from a fresh batch of sugar cookies flawlessly floods every corner of the dwelling. The initial embrace of the little old lady residing there briefly masks the fumes of warm vanilla from the cookies waiting to be frosted. This little old lady holds and cherishes the title of “Grandma”.
The elderly woman’s two and only granddaughters arrive knowing very well the task of accessorizing cookies awaits them. She appoints them as designated retrievers for all the ingredients and tools needed for the day to come. With a table scattered of every sprinkle and shade of green and red icing possible, they went to work. Their laughter fills the tiny house as they share stories and decorate cookies. It doesn’t take long for the little girls to realize they have no future in the art industry after looking at their discombobulated gingerbread woman and her not-so-extravagant Christmas dress they were envisioning. Their Grandma convinces them otherwise, genuinely believing each snowman, star, tree, and gingerbread cookie is painted with sugar to perfection.
*For the Grandmother, this day couldn’t come soon enough. She slaved for hours in her 1-person kitchen preparing for the little girls to come for the day. Her heart was full just watching them. The view of the two of them bringing her cookies to life was better than the feeling you get when the first sheet of beautiful cookies comes out of the oven. The day could have lasted forever.
The youngest of the little girls gets distracted by her grandmothers festive earrings as they dance and chime with every turn of the head. The distraction signals to the little old lady that lunch preparation is nearing. The two little girls begin packing away the cookies, methodically choosing which cookie belongs to which individual and how they will maneuver the shapes in order to ensure the safety of their frosted outfits before being delivered to the rest of the family.
*For the envious granddaughters, this day could be on repeat forever. There was no one better than their grandmother. “Gold” was not quit good enough to describe her heart, though her hands, arms, and neck were covered in jewelry of that resemblance, so it seemed fitting. They soaked in every word she spoke when she told stories and watched diligently as she taught them the proper way of baking.
The fragrance of warm vanilla slowly fades into a distinct, yet savory scent of tuna fish sandwiches, always including an avocado surprise inside…a Grandma staple. Paired with a glass of milk, which the grandmother insists her granddaughters drink to help them grow “big and strong”, the trio polished their lunches and bid their farewells until next. They hugged goodbye and held on to her signature perfume for as long as their noses would let them.
*For the Grandma, the departure only meant that a return would soon follow, but she hugged tight just to remind the girls of how much she loved them. Exhausted, but full, both of cookies and of glee, she waved as her granddaughters skipped down the driveway.
The tradition continued every year. One day, in early December, they’d gather. The two granddaughters put their lives on pause from the busy world of friends, school, and sports that consumed them, only to enter an oasis of long hugs, perfect cookies, and tuna sandwiches. It was like somehow the little old lady had the ability to recreate that very first magical day over and over again, keeping the growing, little girls, young forever.
*For the two granddaughters, the day almost felt like another holiday to celebrate, exclusive to the party of three. Year after year, they went through their routine.
But as the two girls became more a part of the world, December seemed to arrive exceedingly quicker. Frosting cookies seemed to take an eternity, and tuna-fish sandwiches became a bore. But the hug from that frail, slowly aging lady, who made everyone’s favorite cookie and was constantly surrounded by a bubble of all things good in the world, never got old. The Grandma, “grand” was an understatement, never halted her allegiance for those girls and the moments they shared. She watched from afar as her innocent granddaughters made new relationships and traditions, leaving their Grandma feeling abandoned. These new relationships and traditions became priorities to her granddaughters.
*For the Grandmother, her Granddaughters could do no wrong. She would never confess how crushed she felt. Her heart had to learn to beat without the sound of her granddaughters laughter fueling it. She had to learn to bake sweet treats without the sweet girls who come to mind every time she preheats the oven for a new batch of cookies.
The aging Grandmother couldn’t fight the creeping vacant void her granddaughters once filled. A December passed and no cookies were frosted or sandwiches were eaten. Everyone felt like something was missing, like there was an absence in their existence. The little old lady called frequently, leaving sweet, elegant, almost letter-like messages on their voicemails. She rarely heard back. The girls were busy, engrossed in their own lives, ignorant of the life they had deserted. Another December followed and the tradition expired. The girls grew up—as all children do. They knew their Grandma would always be there waiting with a fresh batch of cookies begging to be frosted and an overdue hug. Next year, they would commence again.
* For the two not-so-little girls, they began to figure things out. They valued the time with their Grandmother and they were ashamed to have let that slip away so easily. They got caught up in busy lives and had to learn to balance their priorities. They were figuring it out.
The granddaughters, now well out of high school, could barely wait for the following Christmas to land. They became complacent in their “new lives” and realized they were placing value on the insignificant. Both of the girls made an effort to reach out and remind their grandma of their eagerness for December, they even practiced their frosting skills on a store bought batch of sugar cookies, whose flavor was essentially non-existent compared to their Grandmas. They planned to make next December the most glorious cookie frosting event to ever occur in the 55 and older living community their Grandma called home.
* For the Grandmother, there was hope. Though she had aged some, she pictured a multitude of years ahead rejoicing through December like they always had. She saw her beautiful granddaughters making an effort. Her heart began to fill where it had dried and she too was elated for what they had planned. She loved them.
But it never seems to work out like they planned. They planned for next year, not knowing they wouldn’t have her around next year. They had everything planned until they had nothing. Plans became irrelevant. What would December be without vanilla fumes contained by the 4 tiny walls called home? What would December be without long hugs they never want to let go of? What would December be without Tuna sandwiches? How could December be merry when it feels there is nothing to be merry about.
* For the granddaughters, everything inside them seemed to crumble like an overcooked sugar cookie. They had lost so much time with her. The girls didn’t expect this, no one expected this. They loved her.
December stumbled upon them and there didn’t seem to be anything to look forward to. Laughter didn’t sound the same, milk didn’t taste as cold, frosted cookies made them cry, and hugs just didn’t last as long. The two girls felt small. They didn’t want to partake in family traditions. They didn’t want to open presents. They wanted one thing; they wanted their Grandma. The emptiness seemed to encompass the two girls. Everything reminded them of her.
The smells. The hugs. The cute cups she gave them their milk in and tuna sandwiches on white bread. Frosting sugar cookies, the candy dish full of seasonal candies, and her assortment of earrings. All that was left was memories. The two girls who were grown, but ached to be held like children as they sobbed, could only vow to keep their Grandma alive by always finishing their milk, refusing to leave any cookie unfrosted, and buying every festive pair of earrings that cross their path.