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Have You Put Away Your Holiday Stuff?!

End of January. Usually a few remnants of Christmas decorations up.These loiterers get put away slowly; as I pass by and see stuff in plain sight that I haven’t noticed in the last three weeks. Oh shoot - I didn’t see that…wreathe…or angel stuck in hosanna mouth long after the celebration is over.

I read there are 50 major holidays in the world between November 1 and January 15. Hence, “happy holidays!” Fifty. The emotion that goes with all of those could pump electricity to all of Canada.

Today, I am putting away the Christmas cookie recipes. They are still out because I always promise to make another batch. And then don’t.

I love these recipe cards. Spotted with butter, some writing blurred out by liquid.

My mom’s Catholic cursive announcing names of cookies that conjure up whole family stories. Ginger Cookies. Midge’s - DO NOT OVERBAKE!! With three squiggly lines under each heading. I wasn’t really nuts about the candy red heart in the middle. Think I spit it out usually. But that’s how mom made them. I have over baked them a dozen times.

Millie’s Sugar Cookies on Grandma’s recipe card. Her cards always have a note scribbled to me on them, always says “Darlin, while you are making these cookies, say a wee prayer for me!” Shamrocks line her recipe cards and the words “It’s good Begorra!”

I can’t remember saying a prayer for her when I first had these recipes. She was perfect and I thought she would always be around. I looked up “Begorra” long after she was gone. “It’s good, by God!”

I may have more recipe cards from Aunt Maureen than my own mom, I think as I cram the cards in the wooden box. Her huge loopy writing - always in fine point green - as big as the state of Texas where she lived. She loved sending recipes - Tex Mex dishes and birthday specialties like Thick Apple Pie (also Good Begorra!) and Chocolate Coconut Balls.

Aunt Maureen probably worried about my culinary skills. I grew up in a house with Potato Buds and Thanksgiving cranberry sauce on a plate (in the shape of the two inch can from which it was dumped out).

I tuck back in Lil’s Fudge and smell the card. Smells like index card now but used to smell like chocolate and bourbon. Lots of drip marks on this card. If you visited Lil in Waseca, Minnesota where she lived, you had a drink and had a tour of the “millionaire’s homes” that lived in this tiny farm town. You finished the ten minute tour at the Bird’s Eye factory - where you could get a grocery bag (bring your own) of fresh corn on the cob in season.

I wonder, come the end of January, if people all over this world are still tidying up. Remembering grandmas and aunts and cranberry sauce from a can as they put away their stuff. Maybe they are regretting not making that second batch of cookies, or sad about the way they treated someone over the candlelit holiday dinner table. Wishing, like Chevy Chase, that things had been perfect this holiday. The heart knows where it fails.

I hear Chris banging around in the family room and find him on the ladder - taking down the Seasons Greetings sign.

“Wow.” I say, “didn’t even see that!”

“It’s looking kinda beat,” he says, “Toss??”

No, I think, and wrap it up in the basement.

This is what we do with traditions. We wrap them up in late January in our hearts to bring them out again next year. Because making grandma’s cookies and putting up the same old decor and lighting the candles to sit down with family year after year after year is how we say “I love you.”

Love is a good path. And we decide, in 2022: no matter what happened over the holidays in 2021, we will follow that path.

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