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

TITLE: The Scents of Christmas
By Karen Shell


Cindy awoke to the sweet aromas drifting into her second-story bedroom. The scent of cinnamon mixed with chocolate could almost raise the dead she thought as she walked by her younger brother’s room. Jeff was awake and already busy at play on his new computer game.

“It woke you, too, huh? You know what the smells mean, don’t you?”

“Yeah, Mom’s cooking,” Jeff replied without looking up.

“It means it’s almost Christmas!” Cindy nearly squealed.

“Well, yeah, it’s almost Christmas. Today’s the first day of school break,” he said sarcastically, giving her a look of disbelief.

“Jeff, have you ever wondered why Mom only cooks on holidays?” Cindy asked in a more serious tone.

“Who cares?” he replied again. “She cooks more than on holidays. It just never smells good,” he added with a grin.

“No, I mean, really cooks, bakes, you know, all day, lots of stuff,” she said thoughtfully, using her arms and hands to articulate her image of a room filled with a spread created for an army.

“Who cares? Once a year, it’s really good stuff,” Jeff said as he got up and brushed past her. “You ask,” he added as he headed for the kitchen.

By the time Cindy made it downstairs, Jeff was propped up on a stool in the kitchen, munching on muffins and cookies Mom had arranged on Christmas-themed plates for each of them for breakfast.

Cindy picked up a cookie and asked, “Is this breakfast?”

“I’m sorry. I’ve been busy for hours already. I thought you’d like it,” Mom said as she slid another pan into the oven.

“Oh, of course we like it. And the whole house smells wonderful. It woke us up,” she laughed.

She watched her mom, happily moving from counter to oven, to sink, almost dancing.

Just then, she turned around. “Jeff, could you put in a Christmas CD?”
“Sure, Mom,” Jeff replied with a mouthful of muffin.

“Mom?” Cindy began quietly, trying to arrange words carefully in her mind. “Why do you cook and bake so much at Christmas?”

Mom stopped and turned toward her, but not looking directly into her eyes. She sat down on a stool and began, with a faraway look.

“Well, you know we give some bags and boxes of treats for gifts?” Cindy nodded as her mom continued, “but growing up in a military family was difficult. We moved from base to base, house to apartment, then to another house. I didn’t move as often as some, but it was always a big adjustment. It wasn’t that Dad enjoyed moving; it was his career. One year, we didn’t even have a tree because we were in the middle of a move. We couldn’t always count on other decorations, either. But, even when it wasn’t cold, and sleigh riding and snowmen were only fantasies, there would be the smell of homemade treats.”

Cindy tried to picture her own mom being awakened by the same favorites.

“Dad would sneak into the kitchen and try to sample a cookie or two. Sometimes he would ask to help by scraping the pot of candy when it was poured into the dishes. Mom would look at me and reply “that job’s been taken.” But, of course, I would grab another spoon and share.”

Cindy and Jeff both laughed, trying to imagine the Colonel licking chocolate candy from a wooden spoon.

“Something else your Grandpa did,” Mom continued, “on baking days, was to read the Christmas story from Luke 2. We would be transported back in time to a stable in Bethlehem. We could close our eyes and imagine not only the scene, but also the unpleasant smells of donkeys, hay and crowded, dirty streets. Upon our return home, we recognized the blessings of the season, no matter where we called home.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 10/23/08
Very cute story. I could almost smell the treats as I read:) Yummy:)
Seema Bagai 10/23/08
I liked the title and the snapshot into this family's tradition.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge10/24/08
Great dialogue between the siblings...they had me wondering why. Then, Mom's answer was very heartfelt. Good job.