When I was a small child, I remember one Christmas, before my brother was born, when my sisters and I were invited to create a gingerbread house with Mrs. Louzac, a kind and energetic neighbor who lived down the street from us. We only lived in this neighborhood until I was 7 years old, but I have vivid memories of some of our neighbors to this day.
Mrs. Louzac was the same woman who let us wear her old high-heeled shoes that were miles too big for our feet, both in length and width, when we played dress-up in the neighborhood.
Unlike my own mother, she would let us teeter about on her shoes, imagining we were glamourous grown-ups as we hobbled in them with our ankle socks, navigating down the tilted, slate gray sidewalks that buckled over the roots of aging trees on our block. (Our normal shoes were clumsy, wine-colored, lace-up, "corrective" shoes, for some obscure manner of strange foot ailments: pigeon toes, bow-leggedness, or what have you.) So sneaking about in stilettos was daring for us; we certainly didn't want our mother to catch us, or to have her discover that we were temporarily abandoning her proactive measures to assure our proper foot growth.)
But at Christmas time, I vividly remember walking tentatively for the first time up the steep steps to Mrs. Louzac's kitchen, and watching, in awe, as a magical house began to emerge from the rubble of baked gingerbread sheets she deftly placed together on her table. She had obviously done this before. I remember her joy and laughter as she busied herself with all the bits and bobs that such an undertaking necessitated.
There were ribbon candies for us to use for fences around the property, and a white marshmallowy substance for a blanket of snow. M&M's lined up like so many little soldiers, ready to serve as a rooftop; lollipops became trees; and gumdrops magically transformed into shrubs by the front door.
Our grandmothers had both contributed to our sweet teeth with their respective Oatmeal and Toll House cookie offerings over the years, and we were literally kids in a candy store, transported by all the paraphernalia available before us for the purposes of this grand estate we were creating.
I do recall, however, being very disappointed when I ultimately learned that all these goodies would wind up being exclusively for display, but not consumption.
"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us." (--Oscar Wilde)
4 days ago