Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Remembering Christmas Again

Baking Cookies
from Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons
Illustration by Jane Dyer

Christmas is a magic time to step back into childhood, and I love to visit memories of Grama Bagley. She was chubby and plump (a right jolly old elf) like I have become. She had gray hair most of the time although I do remember her having a tinge of blue or pink when that was the Grama trend. She wore dresses and aprons, and nylons rolled at the knee so they would stay up without a girdle, and she wore black grama shoes with laces and stacked heels. She was definitely soft and squishy like a giant stuffed toy.

I remember going to her house at Christmastime to bake sugar cookies. She had really cool cookie cutters and she'd roll out the dough with flour on her kitchen table and then I got to cut the cookies out. While she transferred them to the cookie sheet, I'd eat the scraps. Scraps from dough that has already been rolled out is even better than the actual cookies! She decorated them like an artist. She even used paint brushes, and her Santa Claus cookies had coconut covering the frosting for the beard. She used red hots, and silver ball candies and sprinkles, and the frosting was made with real butter so they tasted as good as they looked. Grama could decorate cookies very fast, and my feeble attempts usually left me disappointed and impatient.

Making Caramels

There was a room behind the kitchen that wasn't heated and was used to store old furniture and boxes of clothes. That is where Grama set up a table with a big marble slab where she would dip chocolates. She made the fudge, caramel, divinity and nut centers first, and then smeared some melted chocolate on the slab. She quickly rolled the center in the chocolate and made a tiny swirl decoration on the top to indicate which center was inside. It was fun to watch her at work.

In the living room a quilt was usually set up. The furniture was pushed back to line the walls of the small room and we kids would play under the quilt while Grama and her friends sat around chatting and quilting. Their legs all looked the same from that vantage point, with the rolled stockings and clunky shoes, knees apart as they reached under the quilt to stitch. I listened and learned while I was laying underneath the quilt, staring at the pattern of stitches. It looked so different from the design being created on the top, with all the pieces of contrasting fabric telling stories of log cabins and sunflower girls and building blocks.

This captures a quilting bee a few decades before my time, but it was not much different.

It occurred to me that looking at the quilt from the bottom was like looking at life while we're in it. Heavenly Father sees the beautiful pattern from above, and knows how it will all turn out, while we're wondering if anything worthwhile can come from the pokes and knots we see from our perspective down here. I'm convinced God is mending the imperfect stitches and creating a masterpiece from our inconsistent, but well-meaning attempts.

I'm the age Grama was when I was little. It would be so fun to visit her as she was then and as I am now. Our interests and hobbies might be different, but our goals would be the same. I really think we would be good friends. Maybe thinking about her this way is a good way to visit her.

To Grama:
(Adelila Hogensen Bagley in 1967, almost 70)

Merry Christmas!

Marty in 2008, almost 60.

Love, Marty

Who will you visit in memory this Christmas Eve?


Kay Dennison said...

No one,

Polly said...

I love your bringing up the memories of cookie baking at grama's. she was truly an artist when it came to baking. what a treat it was to go over there and make cookies and learn to make carmels with her! I think of her on Christmas Eve as make her Chicken noodle soup for the family and friends that come over to my house. I try to get the noodle thin, but not too thin and make sure the soup in really really hot (in memory of dad) it could never be hot enough for him! I always think of mom at Christmas time..she made her house sparkle and anyone who walked in the door was made to feel welcome..

mama jo said...

loved those memories also...sugar cookies have always frustrated me because i can never get them to turn out like grandmas...i think of her and grandma lundgren who always gave madame alexander dolls...mom and dad who made christmas the most special day...i think of tom and our great memories and i really think of my kids because that's who i do it all for..

Sheri said...

The only grama I knew was 68 when I was born. When I was three, she broke her hip and it never mended, so she was on crutches the remainder of her life. I never got to bake cookies, make candy or sit underneath her quilts :( But she did teach me to embroider and crochet as we talked about history and current events.