I am sitting here, curled up in my purple Project Dance Company sweatshirt on your grandfather’s couch in front of the colorful sparkly tree, drinking my cup of earl grey (hot) tea out of the giant Grateful Dead mug and eating a plate of Christmas cookies. They are quite good, even a couple of weeks after Christmas, out of the freezer. Yum.
The two of you were such wonderful cookie-making helpers and deliverers over the break that I couldn’t help but write you a small ‘Cookie Talk’ note while eating these to celebrate what holiday cookies mean to us. Christmas cookies are not just about consuming carbs; to us, Christmas cookies are a symbol of the spirit of the season and of the spirit of our family. They are just as much about making the cookies together and delivering them to loved ones as they are about enjoying treats and delights.
Remember the word “hospitality”? It’s an important word that you should get to know because it’s one of our family’s core philosophies and practices. Hospitality is the practice of showing the spirit of welcome to others, whether they are family or strangers. It’s a complicated subject actually. My mother was my first teacher in the Art of Hospitality. I have never had a better teacher than her in that art (except for Love itself, literature, and the prophets). She learned about it from your Grandma Mel, who is also an expert, but Gramma Sue is really the one I followed and follow. She is an expert in the art of surrounding guests with the spirit of welcome in a number of forms: food, fun, comfort, luxury, decadence.
Yes, there’s no place like home for the holidays, and because of this, the holidays are a time for the hustle and bustle of travel. People travel far and wide, during the holidays, to be with their loved ones. We know all about this because we drove more than forty eight hours to spend our holiday together this year. That’s what people who love each other do: they travel far and wide to be together, if that’s what it takes. Just think of all the Greek hero Odysseus had to endure when, after a ten-year-long war, it took him another ten long years of traveling to return to his beloved home– his wife and child, his Ithaca. How do you think his wife Penelope felt while he was away? She had to deal with a terrible reality of pests, scallywags, and barbarians. She needed his protection and he wasn’t there. She must have felt so abandoned, lonely, and scared, and had so many unanswered questions; she must have been angry; it must have been so hard.
But he eventually made it home, unharmed from his enemy Poseidon and protected by his guardian Athena, which showed her, finally, that he had been trying to get to them for all those years and had not truly abandoned them. Do you think she felt like giving him a good whack when she first saw him, for all he put her through, or do you think she was just so overcome with love and happiness at seeing him again that she could only embrace him and shower his tired and worn face with kisses? I mean, he did clear Ithaca of its bad guys, so maybe she forgave him on those grounds. I’m foggy on it; it’s been a while since I’ve opened one of my copies of The Odyssey. But the plight of Penelope is always on my mind. I guess you could say it’s close to home.
Greek hospitality is known as “Xenia”– it is the practice of showing kindness and generosity to guests. That’s what we practice at the holidays and all year round. Imagine if a traveler had come so far, through the cold and ice, expecting to be welcomed home with warmth and love and food and shelter, but, instead, was met with a darkened porch and a closed door! Or was told, “You’re not welcome here!” How awful! That would be just the worst. It’s hard for us to imagine that such a thing could actually happen, because we’re so gracious and hospitable, and we would never treat a kindly traveler like that– because of who we are: we are members of a family that adheres to “hospitality ethics.” We enact our ideals.
I mention this story because I once tried to deliver Christmas cookies to someone I miss and love, an old friend whom at the holidays I call Scrooge, and I was left out on a freezing porch in the cold. Though I graciously asked for shelter and hospitality and though I was childish in my excitement over delivering the cookies, I was granted the opposite of hospitality: I was treated as inhospitably as it is possible to be treated. In fact, Scrooge sent my plate of Christmas cookies back to me, crushed and destroyed, at the bottom of a box with a terrible note I wish to forget.
The Spirit of SCROOGENESS was alive that year, and my Tiny Tim idealism could not protect me from its power to send a bolt of coldness straight to my heart. It still sends icicle shivers down my spine to think about!
The reason it hurt so much is that I didn’t want to realize my old friend had become Scrooge (Eek! Scrooge!). I thought that if I was just my Tiny Tim self, and if I just delivered the cookies like I used to do when I was young, that my bosom buddy of yore would be happy with me because, before Scrooge became Scrooge, Scrooge used to love my gifts and my cookies, and always welcomed them, to my heart’s content. How could someone who loved my cookies as much as my old friend Cookie Monster loved my cookies turn around and desert those old Greek ideals, how could someone do something so cold as to crush my cookies? It’s hard to understand but sometimes our friends come down with a bug. My friend had grown sick at heart with a terrible illness called SCROOGENESS.
Well, that’s neither here nor there because, as we know, the love is never gone. If it is love, it is always love.
I survived that literally crushing incident, and I decided that I would not let a sad, tortured being like Scrooge keep me from being the loving Tiny Tim sort that I am. Girls, we cannot let the cruel, ice cold heart of one crotchety old Ebenezer who traded love and kindness for the superficial things in life stop us from running through the snow, joyfully, leaving snow angels and cookies and happiness everywhere. Let the miserable be miserable; let the joyful be joyful!
I can only hope that visits from the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come will show Scrooge the way back to the spirit of hospitality so that Scrooge can return back to the old Cookie Monster I once knew.
I’m a believing sort, and I have no doubt that someday Scrooge will make right all the wrongs and share in the spirit. Hope springs eternal, Kiddos!
It’s not that I believe people can change– it’s that I believe that people are who they are on the inside, and that they can get on the path of righteousness if and when it is right with their soul.
We watched A Christmas Carol together this year, and I went to a movie theater to see a classic version of it, so I am ever more hopeful that a cold heart can be melted with memories and visions into seeing the good in the world and into recognizing what matters in life.
My traumatic experience with delivering those cookies to Scrooge does not somehow take away the many, many joyous memories I have of being a gift and cookie delivery girl. The spirit of hospitality is alive, in me and in you. I want you to be like me, in this way; I want you to see the best in others even when they don’t deserve it– and I want you to trust that your acts of generosity and kindness will be received graciously and appreciated– and I want you to commit all of the acts of kindness from your loving hearts with abandon and with dancing joy! That’s the spirit! That’s who we are: The Givers.
Cookie-delivery is an art and you are well on your way to making it your own. I was so proud of you for delivering cookies to the porches of a couple of our neighbors. They were so happy to have you visit and bring them cookies. Delivering cookies is one of our family’s holiday traditions; we will uphold it through the years.
Of course, before delivery comes the baking and the frosting. And this year you showed me how much you love baking cookies to share and how much you enjoy staying up late with me and getting up early with me to bake and decorate them in Butterville (what we will call our kitchen when we have a kitchen of our own). If you two decide to have a cookie truck someday, called Two Tiny Tims Cookies, I’ll totally be your delivery elf! (There is a Scrooge out there, in need of your cookies, trust me!)
This year, we made the cookies we love most:
Sugar Cookie Cut-outs
Bourbon (and Ginger-Rum) Balls
We didn’t have enough time to make the sesame cookies, the lemon biscotti cookies, the Mexican wedding cookies, or the fig cookies, but those are ones we love, too. I was pleased with how they all turned out. The ginger-rum balls were an experiment, and I like them as much as, if not more than, the traditional bourbon balls.
I especially like the story behind the bourbon balls. Apparently Grandma Mel used to bring Christmas cookies to the nuns, and they were crazy about her bourbon balls! The nuns could not get enough of the bourbon balls, so she started a tradition of making BOURBON BALLS FOR THE NUNS every year after that! Isn’t that funny? I love that story.
And I love bourbon balls. Probably because I love nuns.
Especially little tiny nuns who deliver beautiful cookies to friends, family, and neighbors during the holidays.
I love you, my Tiny Tim-ettes.
Let us say a prayer for Dear Old Miss Stir Scrooge and for our little family:
“Bless us all, that as we live, we always comfort and forgive. We have so much that we can share with those in need we see around us everywhere. Let us always love each other, lead us to the light. Let us hear the voice of reason singing in the night. Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall. Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please, bless us one and all.”
Saying that and thinking of the love we share is a blessing. My heart is full tonight.
Your Tiny Mum
P.S. We know the secret ingredient for the World’s Best Cookies. Love, of course! Spicy, sweet, savory, punchy, puckery, smuckery, zingy, zesty, golden delicious love. We are the Food of Love. We are blessed and will play on.