Weeks ago I received a group text with an invitation to sign up and join my daughter's 13-year old girlfriends and their mothers for a gingerbread house making class. For $60 per house, a child and family can attend one of the well known grocery giant Publix’s Apron Cooking School where they give you the ingredients and 2 hours to make a “Texas” sized gingerbread house. My initial reaction of course was wishing the actual store was the one that’s a mile from our house instead of 26 miles in the cool part of town (Winter Park), and that this would be “one more thing” to add to already busy weekend and month of craziness.
Then came a sense of discomfort since my husband has always been he one to make gingerbread houses with Claire since she was 2. Every year the two of them made a gingerbread house as one of our Christmas traditions. Dave is so highly gifted, artistic and loves precision. I, on the other hand, love cooking but rarely use a recipe or measure ingredients, which means my initial vision of any gingerbread house that I would make might resemble one that was hit by category 3 or 4 hurricane. I asked Claire how important it was to her to be with her girlfriends and she said she wanted to go. Done! I signed us up only to find out I did it at the wrong location. But fixed that, and re-registered at the correct location. (Yes, I want credit for effort.)
On Sunday morning, 8 girls, their mothers and some siblings, all joined for a 10am class. Wow, a huge cooking classroom with 30-40 trays of various types of candy, Chex, pretzels, wafers, and just a child’s fantasy with a variety and accessibility of sugar. I couldn’t decide whether to make the house or ask for a bowl and spoon and eat “breakfast”. You can use endless amounts of icing and ask for more to decorate your house with, and off we go. I imposed on the hostess by asking her to play Ariana Grande’s Christmas music instead of the traditional stuff, after all these are 13 year olds and I am a cool mom!
Pretty soon into the first hour, Claire declares, “Mom, this is NOT a competition!” Seriously? I looked a my daughter and smiled, implying she knows better about who her mother is. After all, I have to prove I am just as good as a substitute for her father for this kind of stuff, and as I rarely make an appearance for any events with her friends or school related activities, of course I have to “show up”. Let’s just say I was HIGHLY ENGAGED!
After the first hour I asked the hostess if she had any beverages. Turns out I missed the announcement that a complimentary beverage was offered to each adult when I was busy buying hot chocolate for a few girls at the beginning of class. (Starbucks in the grocery store, brilliant!) My hostess instinct kicked in as I asked for mimosas for all the moms, and I enjoyed a glass also.
Claire and I took turns, working on the icing and the decorations. I am afraid she quickly realized my obsession with symmetry and perhaps not being a “team player”, so we worked on different sides of the house. I was so humbled, moved, inspired, and just melted when I realized just how creative she is. She made a “fire pit” and fire using pretzel sticks and jelly beans at the front of the gingerbread house in the “yard”. She also made an incredible gingerbread Christmas tree with decorations and a tree skirt! I was too busy enamored with myself and the colorful roof I had created, and when I discovered how to use icing to make icicles off the roof edge, I was beside myself beaming with pride and making sure Claire knew that her mother was good at play also. We joked, we laughed, sharing the table with another mom-and-daughter couple. Listening to the banter between mothers and 13 year olds was really special and reminded me that it’s still possible to be incredibly close with a teenage daughter.
The hostess announced we had one hour left, then 30 minutes, 20…suddenly it was like “Iron Chef”—pseudo tension with sarcasm and laughter infused the space and a mad dash to do whatever it took to finish. I added sprinkles to our “yard” and proudly declared I included “Hanukkah” colors. I think I was most proud of the coconut flakes on the roof used to resemble snowflakes! At the end, we lined up all 8 houses, and took photos of the girls as a group, and one with mothers and daughters! I will never forget this day, and from now one Dave has competition—this will be a new tradition for us. Transporting this massive gingerbread house home was an adventure worthy of another blog!
I don’t play enough, and I don’t play enough with Claire or Dave. Given the well established benefits of play as described in this article, let all of us enjoy much play this holiday season.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!