It all started with Martha Stewart (as all good stories do). Many years back, Martha had a darling small tree with gingerbread men hanging on it in her magazine. The cookies were simply decorated and the result was lovely. Despite my better judgment, I decided to try and recreate it.
I was amazed when the cookies (and the tree) turned out beautifully. For a few days, the house smelled like spices and I was filled with joy whenever I passed my adorable creation. And then … I left two teen-aged boys home alone to go and do errands. I returned to find my little tree covered with … heads. That’s it, heads. The boys had eaten the bodies off of every single gingerbread man on the tree. They thought it was hilarious. I did not.
I waited for five years before I tried again. I made the mistake of inviting my son-in-law and middle daughter over to help me decorate the cookies. They “helped” all right. Instead of the simple, elegant cookies I imagined, I got the most bizarre creations you’ve ever seen in your life.
There was Robber Man who stole the other gingerbread men’s legs (so, of course there were also legless cookies), there was psychedelic 60’s man, velour tracksuit man, and lederhosen man. The kids were so proud of their works of art that of course I had to hang them on my tree. It was the weirdest tree you’ve ever seen. Martha would have been horrified. The kids were delighted.
Thus, began our annual “Bizarre Gingerbread” tradition. I bake the gingerbread cookies and the kids, their cousins, and their friends come over to decorate. Laughter reigns as weird and random gingerbread cookies are decorated. I am always amazed at their creativity (and weirdness). I’ve had Richard Simmons, ZZ Top, the Kardashions, and Mr. T hanging from my tree. I’ve had Frida Kahlo, “hipsters”, minions, Bert, and Batman. In fact, there aren’t many famous people who haven’t been crafted in gingerbread and hung from my branches.
And, now the grandkids are getting involved. Whenever I ask my granddaughter what kind of cookies she wants to make, she chants, “Gingerbread, gingerbread!” Her cookies are even weirder that her parents’ cookies.
As for me, I have come to terms with the fact that I will never get that elegant Martha experience. Instead, my tree better matches my life: messy, gaudy, and filled with unusual characters! I wouldn’t have it any other way.