A Not-Holiday Holiday
The tree is decorated. The biggest pine tree we've ever had for any Christmas. The fresh, clean smell of a pine tree fills the living room. The smell of fresh baked cookies wafts in from the kitchen and the house just smells like Christmas. That special combination of mint, spices, and forest.
The tree sparkles with so many different kinds of lights that it isn't even funny. No one could agree. White lights, nonblinking multicolor lights, flashing white lights, twinkling colored lights. We couldn't choose one, so we chose them all.
The ornaments don't match in the slightest. All of them are handmade or gifts from relatives. Some of them are from back when we were in elementary school. When the teachers would have us make ornaments around Christmas time because that was easier than trying to teach second graders excited for vacation. Some of them are hand-me-downs, older than any of us.
The garland on the tree is just as sporadic as the ornaments and the lights. White, pink, red, orange, blue, and silver store-bought strands coat the branches. Homemade popcorn garland is draped in seemingly random locations. Even flower garland has its place among the branches.
We couldn't even choose one flavor of candy cane to hang. From where I sit on the couch I can spot traditional peppermint, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, watermelon, green apple, Jolly Rancher, bubble gum, and a rainbow one whose flavor I do not know.
Oddly enough, it's the prettiest Christmas tree I've ever seen.
A menorah rests on the mantel of the fire place. It would seem that not only can we not agree on types of decorations, we can't agree on a holiday to decorate for. Once again, we just chose both.
The smell of applesauce cookies reminds me that I was on my way to help with the cooking before I was distracted by the tree.
I enter our flour coated kitchen, finding massive mountains of cookies and cookie dough. Nathan's pretzel cookies sit in one tin. Lamp's apricot thumb-print are in another. Ranting's oatmeal chocolate chip, Fishy and Ni's macadamia white chocolate chip, Kayte and Py's sugar, Flying's yoyos, and Night's toffee squares are all in varying bowls occupying most of the counter space. Xuut's chocolate chunk peanut butter, Tally, End, and Miles's traditional chocolate chip, Pyro's banana cinnamon chocolate chip, and my oatmeal butterscotch have yet to be made.
I grab powdered sugar and vanilla from the pantry and get the milk from the fridge. Those sugar cookies need frosting and the oven is occupied by what are either oatmeal raisin or more oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I can't tell.
Nathan works on more of her pretzel cookies, receiving help from Flying. Lamp is threatening Pyro with beating him with the spoon if he keeps eating the cookie dough. Fishy and Miles have apparently given up on baking anything and are eating cookies and cookie dough. Ni and Ranting have gotten into a flour fight and I fear I will end up in the crossfire of their flying baking ingredient. Kayte pulls a batch of cookies from the oven while Py confiscates the cookie dough from Fishy and Miles so that they can head into the oven next. Night and Xuut are in the process of making gingerbread people. Tally volunteers to assist me with the frosting.
"You're going to eat it, aren't you?" I ask.
She smiles. "Taste tests are absolutely necessary."
"Alright. You can make the vanilla frosting. I'll make the cream cheese."
A burnt cookie goes flying through the kitchen, but in the chaos, no one notices. I'm glad the kitchen is big enough to fit all of us without having us elbow to elbow. End enters the kitchen, narrowly avoiding a face full of flour. Ni apologizes before receiving a face full herself. He goes to help Nathan with her pretzel cookies.
Fishy notices Tally and myself working on the frosting and immediately requests we make some chocolate. After than, we're attacked with specific frosting requests. Strawberry, lemon, dark chocolate, orange, and a whole bunch of other flavors.
"We're going to need more powdered sugar. And a bigger bowl," I point out. "I'll be back."
Weaving my way through the kitchen I arrive back at the pantry and grab a couple more boxes. The last couple as I note.
Over the din in the kitchen, I shout, "Who wants to go to the store for more baking crap?!"
End volunteers to drive and Flying agrees to go with him to help him find everything. They head out and the kitchen seems the slightest bit less crowded, though not by much.
I make it back to our mini frosting station, stopping once at a cupboard for a bigger bowl. Tally already has the beaters out.
"We need Christmas music," I tell Fishy as she hunts for a spoon with which to eat my frosting.
She nods, placing a hold upon her spoon hunt to go play holiday music throughout the house. I chuckle as the sound of the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album enters the kitchen. I sway to the music as I stir the frosting. When I nearly get nailed by another burnt cookie flying through the room, Ranting and Ni each take a spoonful of overly sweetened frosting to the face.
"Don't waste the frosting!" Fishy chastises. I giggle and give her the bowl. It's not a batch we can really use. Too sweet. Fishy argues that frosting can never be too sweet. …I feel like I shouldn't have given her the bowl, but too late now.
Several more batches of frosting are mixed up and we have all the flavors requested in all the colors of the rainbow. (Except for the chocolate. I don't advise trying food coloring in chocolate frosting. It looks like baby poop…)
End and Flying return with our baking ingredients and Lamp and I whip up a batch of my butterscotch oatmeal cookies while Fishy, Tally, Miles, End, and Flying frost the sugar cookies while Night, Xuut, Kayte, and Py frost the gingerbread people. I reach over and steal one of the unfortunate gingerbread citizens, immediately biting off its head first. It's hot enough to burn my tongue, but still quite delicious.
Somehow Ranting and Ni ended up with Fishy's bowl of frosting and spoonfuls going flying through the kitchen.
"Our land lady is going to hate us," Nathan mutters to herself.
I wave it off. "We'll get it cleaned up. Half the fun of baking is in the mess!"
She smiles. "True enough."
The last of the cookies come out of the oven. Frosting is drizzled, globbed, and poured all over the cookies. Dishes are washes and various ingredients cease to fly across the room. Walls are scrubbed, counters washes, floors mopped. Eventually our kitchen returns to the neat, tidy order of its previous state. Our dozens upon dozens upon dozens of cookies are sealed away in cookie tins, Tupperware, and plastic baggies. We're definitely going to be giving those away to the neighbors. We won't be able to finish all those cookies, even among the fourteen of us.
We head into the living room, opening our movie cabinet and pulling out the holiday collection. In the mood for a bit of a comedy, the group decides on the newer version of The Grinch. The one with Jim Carrey.
Popcorn is popped and passed around. We lounge on the couches, the floor, and the recliner. A holiday movie marathon ensues. We run out of popcorn and manage to put a dent in our cookies.
At three am, most of us are passed out, asleep where we fell.
The next day is neither Christmas nor Christmas Eve. It isn't Hanukah either, but regardless of the lack of specific holiday, we exchange gifts. After that we head out into our fairly sized backyard and a snowball fight develops. Most of us are still in our pajamas. (Christmas PJs, of course. The fuzzy, holiday print kind that parents get their kids when they're little.)
All in all, it's an amazing holiday-that-isn't-actually-a-holiday. The fourteen of us in one house is a crazy combination, but it's the good kind of crazy. The fun kind. The kind that makes you wonder how you lived without it back when your life was orderly. It's that kind of insanity and I know I love it. I assume everyone else does or they'd have moved out long ago.
Holidays in this house can't possibly get any better.
I wish you all a late, "Happy Holidays!" The idea wouldn't leave my mind and I knew I couldn't work on Spontaneity again until I wrote this. It's great because it has everyone in it. Even those of you who died way back in the beginning of Too Long. So once more, I wish you all happy holidays and I hope you enjoy.