This holiday season, Jarad Dewing urges you to forgo the traditional molds and let creativity reign.
Every other weekend, I drive 100 miles south to my parents’ house to hang out with my children. One of the drawbacks of being a financially-struggling divorcee is that I can’t comfortably bring them to my tiny city apartment, spend a quality amount of time with them, and get them back at a reasonable hour. Our moments together are precious to me, especially around this time of year.
This time of year, we make cookies.
Picture this: Three svelte, disheveled youngsters on tall stools, misshapen hunks of raw sugar cookie dough before them, and flour dusting everything—the granite countertop, their arms, their shirts, skirts, and fine hair. Pop-Pop stirs food coloring into vanilla frosting and sets out plastic cups full of hot pink, neon teal, sunshine yellow, and mint green icing. Nana hands out wooden rollers and a Tupperware bin of tin cookie cutters before she preheats the oven. Shakers of various glittery sprinkles sit in a tidy row.
And then all hell breaks loose.
Within thirty seconds I have a rainbow of icing and sparkles in my beard and my fingertips are stained the color of dandelions. I’m squinting through a cloud of flour. Everyone is talking at once, and loudly.
“Can I have the yellow PLEASE?!”
“Where’s the star cutter?”
“This sleigh looks like a gravy boat.”
“Stop stealing all the GLITTER!”
“Wait…” and that’s when I interrupt, “a gravy boat?”
My son nods confidently. He’s shoved the traditional cookie cutters out of reach, towards his two sisters, and is turning one cutter around in his hands, examining it from every axis. Since I’m squinting already, I can see that it’s probably supposed to be a sleigh. But he’s right: from a certain angle, it definitely resembles a gravy boat.
“Well,” he decides aloud, “if there can be a Christmas gravy boat, I can make a Christmas platypus.” And so he did, a top-view sugar cookie platypus complete with duckbill and googly-eyes, festooned with gold sprinkles and a waffled tail.
Nana couldn’t keep the cookie trays circulating fast enough, between creation and cooking and decorating. The stars and ornaments and Santas and angels were completely ignored. My babies had their heads tucked down, churning out random shapes: Christmas bananas, hammerhead sharks, tractors, houses, squid, and one particularly complex Thomas the Tank Engine. Every bespoke cookie ended up with a half-inch of frosting and another quarter-inch of firmly packed sprinkles. Hell, the hammerhead shark took up half a baking sheet all by itself. Had a vertical dorsal fin and everything.
I wouldn’t have witnessed that bout of furious creativity if I’d tried to keep everything neat and clean. I would have never guessed my daughter would manage to bake a tractor with (probably accidental) moving wheels. And I was significantly more charmed by the platypus and the Kraken than I ever would have been by a generic stocking or snowman.
This season, give the young ones space to let loose. Throw some flour down, heat up the oven, and see what happens. Keep the cookie cutters in the drawer for once, and let those innocent holiday spirits run rampant. I guarantee you’ll be magically surprised.