Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Baking

My hands smell like peanut butter as I pull them from the dough. Sticky, savory deliciousness clings to my fingers as I wipe them on the side of the bowl while resisting the urge to eat the dough right off my fingers. Peanut Blossoms are my favorite cookie, although we only have them a few times a year. It’s mostly by my account; I prefer to have an excuse to bake things, like an occasion or holiday, whereas my brothers would be only too happy to partake in the consumption of chocolate and peanut buttery goodness. I fill the baking sheet with balls of dough rolled in sugar, and wait until two sheets are prepared before I stick them in the oven. Immediately set to unwrapping the Hershey Kisses, my mind begins to wander to years past, where I stand in the kitchen alone, as I do now, carefully unwrapping the foil to reveal the little pyramid-drops inside. In a house with six people, nothing is ever quiet, but it is peaceful… kinda. My brother’s footsteps are hard to miss. They are more accurately footfalls. I always wonder if he does this on purpose or if the likeness to an elephant is a natural pace for him. Down the stairs he stampedes, rattling pictures on the wall and making Hades look up and ask, “What the heck is going on up there?” Instinctively I huddle the Hershey Kisses closer to the bowl, knowing it is the first thing Jesse will go for. His sweet tooth would have made Willy Wonka proud. That in combination with weighing, like, a buck forty annoyed the living daylights out of me. He swaggers into the kitchen and his eyes don’t even glance at me as they zero in on the chocolate just waiting to be devoured.

            “No!” I say, throwing my arm out to protect my ingredients, as if that would stop him.

            Jesse looks mockingly crestfallen. “Why not?” he demands, his voice breaking in that way that it does when he’s particularly exasperated.

            “They’re for the cookies!”

            “I’m only taking one.”

            “No, you’ll take, like, three.” I glare at him and he grins because we both know it’s true.

            He sighs and gives a dramatic eye roll. “Fine.”

            The oven clicks mechanically at that moment, and I check on the cookies. When I turn around, I notice at least five Hershey Kisses are missing.

            JESSE!” I yell. His laughter comes from upstairs. Sneaky little punk.

            I laugh at the memory, coming back to myself. Those incidents had led me to arranging the Hershey Kisses in a two-dimensional pyramid, so I would know if any were missing. Three on the bottom, two in the middle, one on top. I don’t do it now. Jesse isn’t home anymore to snitch from the holiday goodies. But even if he was, I probably wouldn’t stop him. For one thing, his sweet tooth isn’t nearly as ravenous anymore. BOOT Camp took care of that. For another, I would just be so happy to see him that he could eat the whole bag and I wouldn’t mind… although I would insist he go out and buy me a new one. Being family only gets you so far. I’m excited to be tweaking my peanut blossom recipe. Instead of regular Kisses, I use the truffle ones. They stay soft and melty on the inside. I’d like to see Jesse try and pull the Hershey Kisses off these. Hah! I probably will, provided the cookies last that long. He’s coming home in a few days. Merely the thought makes me realize how much I’ve missed him while he’s been in the military. Those few days of the year where he gets to come home are precious to me, and I’m so thankful God has kept him safe these past years as Jesse has had to conquer numerous challenges by himself. It’s funny… Jesse is the one who joined the military, the one who always enjoyed playing Army Men, yet I find myself wanting to protect him, or at least to stand beside him, so he wouldn’t have to face anything alone. I know I can’t do that physically, but I pray he will never feel alone, that he knows me and my family are constantly thinking about him and praying for him. I hope he stays safe no matter where he is. And I hope he has a Merry Christmas.

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