Drive us not into temptation

Several years ago, not long after I had become a single parent, my parents invited us to celebrate Christmas with them. We had come through a stressful time and jumped at the chance. What could be nicer than a cosy family celebration? I would bring some special biscuits and the gingerbread house, one of the must-haves for a traditional German-style Christmas. It has to be just right, complete with Hansel and Gretel and the wicked witch. The tiny figures are handed down from my grandparents and there is even a black cat to stand on the roof. The gingerbread house is a challenge (here is the recipe if you’re interested). Made of honey, flour and spices, in thick slabs that are glued together with special icing, it’s stuck to a base and decorated with all kinds of sweets. Impressive as well as delicious!

Christmas preparations were the usual mad rush and getting the gingerbread house made was a late-night, frantic, last-minute effort. Now it just had to travel 250km and arrive in one piece. What could go wrong? There was no way it would fit in the boot, which was already stuffed with presents, other food and bags of totally essential clothes and other items a 13 and 16 year old could not possibly manage without. Plus my daughter’s best friend was coming with us, adding yet more bags and an extra teen to the mix. What to do? I was in luck! The girls heroically volunteered to look after the house, holding it on their laps for the entire two-and-a-half hour trip. After a lot of hectic packing, squashing everything into the boot and racing back to pick up forgotten items, we finally left home.

The trip was wonderfully uneventful. For once, the car didn’t break down, a Christmas miracle in itself. The girls were happy, chatty and giggly in the back seat, while big brother sat in the front, occasionally rolling his eyes and choosing new CDs to entertain and challenge us. We stopped off for a snack and arrived sooner than we thought, dropping the friend off on the way. There was a happy bustle of unpacking, inspecting the spectacular Christmas tree and finally settling with a nice, hot cup of coffee. Everything was ready for Christmas eve, including the gingerbread house, sitting on its own special little table. It was still hidden under the tea-towel that had protected it during the trip. “Let’s put some icing-sugar snow around it while we’ve got a spare moment” said Granny. Off she went to fetch the sugar and sieve, while I carefully lifted the tea-towel. Hideous surprise! Yes, the house was there, but half the sweets decorating it had disappeared. We laughed. There was the explanation for the giggling and whispering in the back seat! Cunningly, only the back had been snack-attacked, so we covered the gaps with icing sugar snow and all lived happily ever after.  In fact, it ended up a lovely, relaxed, happy Christmas, one to remember.

Published on ABC Open

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