**updated with new pictures!**
Gingerbread is a long standing tradition in our family.
Gingerbread cookies, dressed in royal icing overalls and aprons...
but most especially gingerbread houses.
Somewhere in that ever-creative mind of hers, my Mom dreamed up a gingerbread house design, and went to work. She sold them at craft fairs... and by word of mouth. They were as delicious as they were beautiful. Some years there were 300... and other years many less. Some years they sold... and I remember one year when they didn't. Boxes were piled high by the door... to be donated somewhere. Thinking back, I can only imagine a fraction of the pain in her heart, as I am sure we could have used the money from the sales... or even just for the supplies. But she gave them away... and never let on her disappointment. And every fall, the Big Bertha mixer would be fired up once again... and the scent of cloves and ginger and molasses filled the house.
I do remember a summer... when the mixing started early. For just one house. My Mom entered the Good Housekeeping gingerbread house contest. It was a mansion. Two stories. A veranda with a gazebo and delicately piped railings. A Pez chimney... and royal icing fir trees. It was... beyond spectacular. And we all just knew that this house would adorn the front cover of the magazine. Somehow... we were wrong. And when the issue was delivered to our house we were astonished. The winning house may have been deserving... to their eyes, not ours... but it was the second place house that boggled our minds. It was a roughly made version of the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe. And I knew that not even rose-colored glasses would make it appear more lovely than the mansion that my Mom had built with hope and anticipation.
Making the gingerbread houses became a family affair. When we were too little to place the candies just so, we sorted them. Buckets upon buckets of Necco Wafer "shingles" were sorted piece by piece. And we could only eat one if it was broken. We did graduate to placing the candy on the house... and that is one of my favorite memories. Mom would squirt out the royal icing and my job was to come along behind and place and space the M&M's just so. I was used to doing things quickly to please my Mom... and so I did my best to be fast and accurate. It became a racing game... which made us both laugh. And to this day is we start a task together she will say No Racing! But I can't ever seem to help myself.
As the years went on... my Gramma took over the shingle sorting job... and my sister & I helped more and more with the decorating. All sorts of jobs... snowing at the base of the house... planting gumdrop flowers and candy canes... even playing Mother Nature and snowing on the roof. Beautiful memories... every one.
Florida's humidity is too much for gingerbread houses... and the special order cookie cutter no longer punches out villages of houses. But on the morning of Christmas Eve... my Mom will make gingerbread houses with her grandkids. It won't matter where the M&M's get placed... or if the snow covers the entire roof. It won't even matter if one of the kids licks their fingers before they touch the candy. It is just a tradition... carrying on in a new sort of way. And it makes my heart smile.
It is A to Z Monday at Jen's... I wonder what she has cooked up over there.