Holiday Fiction Christmas

“Just let me off here”, she urged. 

The yellow cab pulled abruptly to the curb. Ginger stepped out into frigid slush, thoroughly sopping her ankle height boots. It had been a gruelling day. Wet ankles and pelting rain provided zero improvement. 

Grandma had not lingered. For that she was grateful. A life well-lived. She ruminated to keep the dull pain at bay. It simply had to wait until after the holidays. Christmas Eve, eve. She and grandma loved the holidays and there was no way that Ginger was going to let her down.

Arriving at her door she mentally perused the list of holiday preparations. Presents: check. Turkey: check. Clean house: check. Decorate: check. Food, wine, eggnog: check, check, check!

Tears well, overwhelm and threaten to spill from her bleary eyes. Things had happened so quickly. Her head spun. With the funeral firmly behind her, the last thing looming was to make their traditional and beloved seasonal treat - gingersnaps. 

Ginger cherished the ritual. The warmth of the kitchen. The readying - gathering the utensils and ingredients. The measuring. The mixing. The nose-tingling smells. The mouth-watering anticipation. The red gingham-clad basket, long readied for the tender-crisp cookies, had waited patiently on the kitchen island all week. 

I didn’t see it coming. Ginger’s thoughts returned to the first week of December, and the phone call that had abruptly altered everything. Ginger caught the call just as she entered the conjoined flats. Grandma had inherited the 19th-century house, complete with carriage house, and over the past few years it had morphed into two units. 

As life twisted and turned, they wound up together. Ginger had gravitated back after the divorce, and with no kids in the picture, it was an easy and logical decision. Grandma had needed a bit of supervision, just a bit, but just enough. It made more sense for Ginger to move into the townhouse, than for grandmother to move out. Their dwellings met in the garden, and the newly installed French doors opened magically onto the envy that was the backyard. The realisation of every creative endeavour she had ever imagined - all of her ideas had coalesced, in this culmination of three summers of planning and hard work. 

Now, with the rain cleared and the evening, unseasonably mild, Ginger’s mind returned to the original kitchen in this gentrified space, as she plunked wholly onto the ornate marble bench. Her memories were thick and sweet as she reflected on the tantalising sights and smells of the many and varied goodies that had been created there. These treats always set the stage well, and so deeply good, really good, for the piece de résistance - gingersnaps. Ginger’s snaps… her red hair shone in the light of the full moon. Full moon, how apt. How fitting. The end of the cycle. Next the waning and then the new moon on its way.

Gingersnaps. Simple. Without complication. Wholesome ingredients. The steps, few. Ease. Comfort. The finality of the day coming to a rightful, celebratory end in the beautiful Christmas Eve ritual that she and Grandma had shared - the gathering of ingredients and items. The mingling. The mixing. The sifting with the vintage sieve. 

When the sifter came on the scene in 1971, Ginger was already 10 years old. So, yes by now, vintage. The sieve had sifted more than cookie ingredients over the years. It had been the magic that was part of the “catching up”, the sharing. The sifting was magical. And needed. 

“Get this part right”, Grandma reminded, “because this is what makes the good stuff”. 

Ginger reflected that Grandma had been right. The mingling and the commingling. Beyond the recipe. As if every time we sifted, our pieces fell together. 

Ginger hugged herself tightly, and stood to face the rear of their shared home. The golden light that reached into the garden was soft and soothing. As Ginger reflected on the baking and the sifting she felt as if her pieces were returning to their places. She pondered briefly, assembling the ingredients in her mind: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, egg, butter, and molasses. Ah, molasses. 

“Slow as molasses in January”, Grandmother had teased. 

Ginger’s astrological sign - Capricorn. January. Slow to meet change. Stalwart. Stoic. Stubborn. M-hmm. 

Ginger had everything she needed for the cookies. As her mind wandered again from the task at hand, she reflected on her own life. She’d had a good job and now had a good pension. She was stable, she was filling the spaces, and the pieces continued to fall into place. She marvelled at how calm and together she had come to feel.

“It wasn’t time though”, she thought, as her mind went once again to grandmother -- yet no one could argue that she hadn’t lived a good and long life. As she turned to walk the stone path back toward the house, she recalled the recent, chilling day that she’d answered her cell to hear, “Ms. Ames?” We have your grandmother here at County General. She’s had a fall and a bad bump to the head. You need to get here as soon as you can.” 

Regretfully, “as soon as you can”, had not been soon enough. It was so quick. Thankfully she hadn’t suffered. And now here Ginger sat.

A steamy breath accompanied Ginger in through the French door; the panes reflected the pleasing space, with a meandering beach-stone path that surrounded a large tree. The maple was the delight of the downtown neighbourhood. As she closed the doors behind her, she was immediately pulled into the kitchen by the heat of the stove. Ginger had preheated the oven and the ingredients were laid out on the countertop. She carefully portioned out her spices, in preparation for the sifting.

But first, cream the butter, egg and sugar. At once came the flash back to the first of many, evocative memories - the aromatic kitchen of her 10th birthday. Ginger and Grandma eating “midnight sandwiches”, as the strains of Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, echoed from the living room. Their love of films black and white, and thrilling, rushed forward - their shared passion.

Add the molasses. Flash to a small garden and the blue watering can - another junk store treasure. It held the rain water that was so carefully poured on the rows of carefully spaced vegetables. 

When the wet ingredients had been sufficiently beaten and creamed, Ginger’s mind rambled to the weekend jaunts to the second-hand store, and their search for treasures: costume jewellery and “useful things” as Grandma called them. The sieve being amongst the most prized.

The dry ingredients were carefully measured into the handled measuring cup followed by the sifting into the heavy yellow bowl. That sieve. Ginger paused, and brought that distant treasure walk into view; that half a century ago walk, that first of many walks that she and Grandma had made together. Slow, with purpose, determined. Ginger and Grandma plodded down the hill and across the park under the blazing rays of July at high-noon. The first of many summer walks to find the spoils that awaited. The result of that first foray. 

The efficiency of the simple tool broadcast the dry mixture in even satisfying puffs, and clouds of memory billowed with each squeeze. 

Squeeze. Making, “clean out the fridge” sandwiches at midnight. 

Squeeze. Watering the garden plants on a humid, hazy morning. 

Squeeze. Sipping sweet, iced, tea in the shelter of the screened porch.

Squeeze. Cutting peonies from the enormous plants that lined the fence. 

Squeeze. Hanging wet clothes on the line.

Squeeze. Exploring the hidden niches in the basement.

Finally, as Ginger added the sifted mixture into the wet and started stirring, she thoughtfully gathered more memories into focus. Delicately, she rolled the dough into small balls and gently pressed them flat with a fork. Studiously, she sprinkled them in a final dusting of sugar. As she bent to put the cookie sheet into the oven, Ginger’s eyes pricked with tears. As she stood and closed the oven door, a tear made its way down her cheek to her chin. 

She set the timer and sat at the island to wait. As the kitchen slowly filled with the cookies’ pungent aroma, Ginger was once again transported back in time, and her head continued to fill with vivid snapshots of the lifetime spent with her grandmother.

Snap. The garden with the building morning heat.

Snap. The small, sparse basement, a cool respite from a smouldering summer day. 

Snap. The breezeway and the smell of autumn leaves. 

Snap. The covered porch that muted the susurration of passing cars, on a rainy day. 

Snap. The walk to the thrift store, the day we found the sifter. 

My hand in Grandma’s, Ginger remembered. The same hand that now brushed the tears from her face, as finally, she wasn’t all right, no longer calm and together while she sifted through these memories of Grandma. The memories now satisfyingly mingled and mixed. A mélange of Grandma and Ginger. Sifted over time. Snaps of a life well-lived.

December 09, 2023 18:23

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Angela Nichols
03:53 Dec 18, 2023

I loved your story. I, too, wrote about baking with a grandmother. I liked the end and how you used one word, snap, to show the time travel. Yours was a warm and touching piece.


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Tricia Shulist
14:32 Dec 16, 2023

What a lovely story. You capture Ginger’s sense of loss so well, in her memories while completing one last task that she and her grandma shared together, alone. Thanks for this.


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Tori Winterrose
14:26 Dec 18, 2023

Really well done. I felt like I was right there in the kitchen with Ginger. What I loved about this story is it's a piece everyone can relate to -- there is some food that reminds us all of someone important to us, and we have all experienced loss. The best part of stories is feeling connected to others, and this really made me reflect on the human experience. Thank you for this brilliant story Connie!


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