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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cooking/Baking (not recipes) (10/16/08)

TITLE: A Sweet Promise Kept
By Sharlyn Guthrie


Mounds of brightly wrapped packages surrounded the modest fir tree in the living room. White lights flickered amid silver bows and time-worn ornaments. Jane and Louise, the church secretaries, deserved credit for all of it. They had voluntarily studied Christmas lists, shopped, wrapped, and decorated, finishing that very afternoon.

By comparison, the kitchen looked as though disaster had struck, which, in fact, it had. The large industrial mixer’s head was raised, and large dollops of frosting dropped from its beaters. Various sized bowls cluttered the counter. Eggshells clogged the garbage disposal. Flour, crumbs, and colored sugar sprinkles littered the floor.

On the kitchen table, long strips of waxed paper held the finished products: Spritz cookies covered with sprinkles, Buckeyes, Santa sugar cookies with red icing smiles and coconut whiskers, pretzels dipped in white chocolate, and ginger snaps. Formed as they were by unskilled fingers, they looked pretty good –delicious, in fact! This had surpassed last week’s baking feat, which produced two loaves of bread and one batch each of dinner and cinnamon rolls, all now tucked away in the freezer.

It took an hour and a half to pack the treats into airtight containers, clear the counters, wash the dishes, and mop the floor. By eleven thirty Joe had dried and put away the last dish. Exhausted, he made his way to the bedroom.

A wave of sorrow swept over him as it always did when he entered the room he and Glenda had shared for thirty years. Her side of the bed was empty now, her closet and dressing table bare. Even her scent had vanished in the weeks since her death. In September the couple was enjoying their first time alone since the twins' birth nineteen years prior. In October the dreaded diagnosis was made. By the middle of November she was gone. Who would have believed cancer could take someone so quickly?

Joe heaved a sigh, sat on the edge of the bed and removed his shoes. Glenda smiled at him from the photo on the bedside table. Grasping the photo to his chest he allowed the tears to flow freely and great heaving sobs to come unchecked. Finally, holding her at arm’s length he spoke. “I did it, Glenda. I kept my promise to you. Our family will have Christmas this year –just like always. I had help with the shopping and decorating, but I did all of the baking myself.”

“I know how much you always cared about tradition and how the kids –yeah, I know they’re adults, but they’ll always be our kids –look forward to your baked Christmas goodies each year. I followed all of your favorite recipes. I’m sorry I never appreciated what a big job it was. You made it look so easy.” Joe paused, reflecting on the mess he had created. “All those years I let you do it all. I should have been more helpful. You never complained, though. You knew that December was a busy time for me at church. I’ve always had more problems to deal with, more counseling sessions and family crises around Christmastime. It’s easy to see why. This year I’ve had to rely heavily on God’s strength just to get this far.”

“Tomorrow I’ll drive to the University and pick up the twins. The rest of the gang will be here by evening. Sammy will be asking, ‘Where’s Grammy?’ and we’ll tell him you’re watching from heaven. It’s true, isn’t it? I know you wouldn’t miss our family Christmas for the world.”

Joe kissed the photo and gently returned it to its place. Then he dressed for bed and climbed in. He had many things to be thankful for, and speaking them aloud in the dark had become his habit. It helped somehow.

“Father,” he prayed, “Thank you for allowing Glenda and I thirty wonderful years together. Thank you that she’s enjoying your presence. Thank you for the comfort I felt as I read her handwriting and followed her recipes. Thank you for giving me the strength to fulfill my promise to her, and for her wisdom in choosing that promise. Thank you for our family; may our heavy hearts still find joy in this blessed season. Thank you for a congregation that has loved and supported us, allowing me these several weeks of healing. Thank you…”

Joe’s breathing slowed. A tear slid onto the pillow, but a smile spread across his face –one that matched the smiles of forty eight Santa cookies.

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This article has been read 808 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 10/23/08
This one surprised me. Certainly wasn't going in the direction I thought. Very emotional story. Wow. Love your title, too. Awesome job!
Amanda Ewing10/24/08
wow. :)

little confusing at the beginning as to who was cooking, but turned out great!

what a SWEET promise kept!
Seema Bagai 10/25/08
A beautiful story. This touched my heart.
Debbie Roome 10/25/08
A very real glimpse into the heart of this man. I love the ending.
Joanne Sher 10/27/08
What a lovely, blessed ending to a story that definitely didn't go where I thought it would. Such a sad, yet comforting, story. Beautiful.
Celeste Ammirata10/27/08
This is so sweet and sad. I really felt for him. I loved the vivid imagery, especially of the kitchen.
Sheri Gordon10/27/08
This is beautiful--even though I have big tears in my eyes.

I was a little confused at the beginning. It started out talking about the church secretaries, then all of a sudden it was Joe cooking. I kept reading and figured it out, though.

Really nice take on the topic. And great descriptions of the cookies.
Beth LaBuff 10/27/08
Yes, your cookie list made me drool! :) This is so sad, tender, and heartwarming at the same time. I love the hope that exudes through Joe (in knowing where Glenda is). Your ending is precious… "one that matched the smiles of forty-eight Santa cookies."
Karlene Jacobsen10/27/08
Sad and sweet. It's so tough going through holidays without those closest to us.
This was well written and emotinal.
T. F. Chezum10/27/08
A touching and well written story. I like that your MC found time to be thankful for all he had and has even though it is a sad time in his life. Good job.
Kristen Hester10/27/08
Wonderfully written. This is so beautiful and tender. Thumbs up!
Betty Castleberry10/27/08
This is so touching. I like that Joe is a man of his word. Very sweet and well written, too.
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/28/08
Your descriptions and deep emotion shown in your story make it excellent.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge10/28/08
Very moving and thought provoking. We usually don't appreciate what we have until we lose it...also, the point of how quickly our lives can be turned upside-down. Beautifully told.
Scott Sheets10/29/08
A touching story that made my heart ache for Joe. I would have to agree with some other comments that the POV was confusing at first. Maybe if you introduced Joe in the first line by having him survey the decorated living room, it would have helped. Otherwise, the story was engaging, descriptive, and emotional. Great job!
Beckie Stewart10/29/08
This was a great, tender, and tear wrenching story. I enjoyed it. Thanks for writing it.
LauraLee Shaw10/29/08
This piece will be a sweet promise kept. How touching.
Leah Nichols 10/30/08
Beautiful story! Nice work.
Joshua Janoski10/30/08
A bittersweet story filled with a balanced mix of sadness and hope. We do often take for granted all that people do until those people are no longer with us anymore. Praise God for giving us the strength to endure the hard times and, at the same time, savor the good memories.

This was a joy to read. Thank you for sharing. :)