One of the things I wanted to do with my granddaughter while she was here after Christmas was make a gingerbread house. In anticipation I baked the gingerbread and cut it into rectangles. I bought candies for decoration and made sure I had enough powdered sugar for icing. Then I waited for an opportunity to make the house.
The morning of the day my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter would be leaving, my son, Ela, said, "Now, what about that gingerbread house?"
I had thought it wasn't going to happen, but now we flung ourselves into construction. I found a piece of cardboard for the base, then brought out the rectangles cut for the walls and roof. I whipped up some royal icing to serve as mortar. Ela cut out the door and gave it to my granddaughter, Kairos, to decorate, then started raising the walls. I slathered icing on the edges of the walls as he held them in place until the icing hardened and the basic construction of the house was done. The next step was the roof.
That's when we realized our mistake. The walls had been cut the right size, but we were supposed to have put the front and back on the inside of the side walls. We had done the opposite. Now the roof wouldn't fit. We tried forcing the walls inward, but that was obviously going to break the house. I suggested string, thinking vaguely about tying it through the windows. Picking up on the string idea, using toothpicks pressed gently into the tops of the walls straight down into the gingerbread, Ela created "nails" to tie the string onto. Pulling gently, he was able to bring the walls closer together until the roof fit. The string was enclosed inside, icing covered the gaps, and the house was saved!
Kairos decorated the front with multi-colored sprinkles, licorice, red-hots, a peppermint under the peak of the roof, and a Swedish fish over the front door.
Ela made a house occupant from gingerbread, with a gumdrop hat, to stand next to the door. His mini-marshmallow snowman kept drooping, so we propped it up with toothpick arms. I decorated a side wall while my daughter-in-law worked in the back, putting a mandala on the wall and flowers along the base, so even though it's winter in the front yard, all you have to do is walk around to the back to be in spring already.
Gummy bears cavort along the sides, some of them upside down, doing headstands. Kairos and I did the roof, shingling banana chips and placing gumdrops at the top when we ran out of banana chips. There is, of course, a chimney. The finishing touch was the peppermint fence my granddaughter made.
We took some hurried pictures and hugged good-bye, and they left in a flurry. I cleaned the kitchen and took down the Christmas tree, but I left the gingerbread house, the cutest gingerbread house ever made, on the dining room table. Pretty soon I'll take it down.
Or maybe not. Maybe I'll freeze it, as someone suggested, and bring it out next Christmas.
Or maybe, as cute as the finished product is, the real value was not in the house itself but in the building of it, something which, like all good times, was a moment, a fleeting moment, the kind of things about which John Ashberry said,
For although memories, of a season, for example,
Melt into a single snapshot, one cannot guard, treasure
That stalled moment. It too is flowing, fleeting;
It is a picture of flowing, scenery, though living, mortal,
Over which an abstract action is laid out in blunt,