A Gingerbread House

by Inge Roberts


The 42 year year old “blueprints” with daughter Kat’s graffiti

image-4When I was very little, my mother tried to make me a gingerbread house from saved up war rations. With tremendous excitement we set out for the building adventure. Then followed rising frustration, cardboard tasting gingerbread, that runny whitish sugary mess which failed to become “construction cement” and our defeated disappointment.

Years later I visited my best friend on Christmas morning and under her silver glittering tree stood the most perfect sugar dusted gingerbread house: fairies could have been happy around it!

When my daughter’s third Christmas approached I was ready to reverse our earlier family failure and invited friends for dinner and then to help with the construction.

The scent of nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and melting butter, sugar and honey, all having been baked into the brown gingerbread sheets which John and I had cut precisely into the architectural elements for our building project, filled the house.

image-2image-3And so to work: two children, two fathers, two mothers, a table spread with gingerbread pieces, a large bowl of creamy white icing another of almonds and dried fruit (this was Marin in the very early seventies – candy out of the question, icing a necessary evil!).  We crunch on the delicious construction cut-offs. There is cider for the children, Sambucca and espresso for the parents and there are giggles and stickiness and jostling for the pastry bag with the icing of which several more batches seem essential. “I need a big blob for my snowman.” “My wood(cinnamon sticks)pile needs more snow.” “My front door has become unhinged.” The chimney starts its third descent: Jay demands skewers to pin it but the crisp roof does not allow this; John produces a drill from the garage: yes!  Meanwhile Sue holds on to the roof, her espresso still untouched. When I urge her to let go, I suddenly see my childhood memory replayed: in stately motion the roof glides down.  More icing. The roof holds.

We all had had a wonderful evening and next morning our little early riser informed us that the house had “broked itself”. On Christmas Eve it looked wonderful – a blessing on electric drills and an abundance of confectioners sugar!
Every year since there has been a new gingerbread house for our family, ( little versions for friends as well) and now they even have stained glass windows and little battery powered lights inside!Their yearly construction was assisted by changing crews: growing kids, teenagers, empty nest friends, a fiancé, then son-in-law, the next generation. Morning-after-construction-roof-slippage was a perennial dread, until friend Pam invented the “temporary 4 semi-crushed paper cup pillars under the eves” method.

imageOur three grandchildren never knew a Christmas without  the house. They are savvy decorators and builders and the vile amounts of toxic colored candy provide me with guilt for an entire year.

Next week the parts are being sent to Boston for assembly by the entire family with two cats watching warily –  hoping for flying buttresses? When John and I join the family, the house will already have been robbed of its prized decor (when one of the girls was 2 years old she was discovered on top of the dining room table, gleefully removing and eating gummy bears from the fence posts yelling for us to share her discovery – she had been asleep while her 4 year old sister Emma and I had decorated the house).

Images from Christmas past…

 Christmas 2013…DSC_2631 DSC_2629 DSC_2628 DSC_2627 DSC_2625 DSC_2623

Comments are closed.