So much for being a Noel no-show

Christmas is Sis' favorite holiday. And I'm beginning to suspect it's because she is rendered ho-ho-hopeless in the face of the jolly fat man.

Yep. Sis loves Santa with the same raw passion that I, an avowed Grinch, reserve for cookie dough.

The sight of a single St. Nick elicits blissful sighs from my besotted sibling. So, of course, Santas of every ilk bedeck Sis' front yard, her kitchen counters, the fireplace mantel and her 6-foot tall Christmas tree.

Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, even carved skinny ones. Singly, or sometimes in groups, Santas' twinkling eyes peer from behind spectacles, noting who is naughty and who is nice. It's kinda unnerving. Especially when one suspects they've most likely landed on the wrong list.

While I tease that Sis and Father Christmas should get a room, I know her bells jingle best when she's surrounded by all her loved ones. Especially those who are fully participatory in her annual orgy of holiday excess known as "Holiday Craft Day."

Knowing my propensity to be a Noel no-show, Sis expressed gleeful surprise when I hied my lazy fanny to this all-day event.

Sis greeted me at in the drive with a hearty squeeze. Or three.

"I'm so glad you came!" she beamed.

I feigned innocence. (It's the only kind I know.)

"Was there ever any doubt?" I winked, before receiving another welcoming hug from Better Half.

Across the yard I spied two more favorite family members. Sweetness and Sunshine wandered amidst the shrubbery. The task-oriented elves dutifully snipped holly and collected pine cones for the upcoming wreath-making session.

"Do you want to join them?" Sis asked.

She is ever hopeful that repeated exposure to her holiday merriment will warm my wizened heart. But I declined. Shuddering. This looked a lot like yard work.

"Baby, it's cold outside," sang my inner caroler, as I headed straight for the kitchen stove to pour myself a piping hot mug of spiced apple cider.

"Use the Spode!" Sis insisted, referencing her special Christmas tree stoneware.

I peeked in the fridge with an expectant smile. Mounds of sugar cookie dough grinned back. "Laters, Baby," it whispered.

Mmmm ... Some holiday traditions are tastier than others. Visions of wooden rolling pins, metal cookie cutters and lots of nibbling danced in my head.

Popping my tongue back in my mouth, I whipped my camera out in an attempt to channel my better angel by shooting a few closeups of family heirlooms.

Zooming in for a closeup of the five porcelain angels, my eyes filled with nostalgic tears as I focused on the turn-of-the-century treasures. The 4-inch clay bells originally belonged to our paternal grandmother. The hand-painted, silk-ribboned dolls were handed down to our mother. The youngest child in our family, I remember holding my breath when I was finally deemed old enough to hang these precious ornaments on our Christmas tree. Sis, the oldest girl, inherited the tiny tinklers upon Mom's passing. With my blessings.

Photo session over, memories tucked back in my heart, I sat with my hands in my pockets during the wreath-making portion of the day's proceedings. I wasn't interesting in making my own, but I can't be trusted not to tweak others' creations. It's a sickness — this need to tweedle and twitch things 'til they're just so. It can also get your hand smacked, so I've learned.

I drifted back into the kitchen. Sunshine was rolling out cookie dough. I shouldered in close, pretending to be helpful, while surreptitiously snabbling my first pinch of sugary deliciousness. I was plotting how to maneuver her out and me in, when Sunshine played right into my sticky little paws.

"I really wish these cookies were already baked, so I could be decorating them. That's my favorite part," Sunshine whispered, with a heartfelt little sigh.

Surreptitiously wiping the drool from my lower lip, I offered to sacrifice myself as cookie roller, cutter, and baker — so she could do the "fun part."

Sunshine expressed her gratitude as I gently pulled a red plastic cookie cutter from her floury hand.

"Thank you! That's really nice of you!, she called, scampering off to the dining room to mix myriad cups of colored icing.

"That's OK," I sang back. "After all, it's Christmas."

Horns may have tilted someone's halo slightly askew as Santa's unbaked head (accidently) tore off and fell into her mouth.

Reach Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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