My childhood was not perfect, but I think that with the passing of time I am able to recall more of the good and the bad fades out of memory. And while my parents were not perfect, what I appreciate and love the most about them is the fact that they always tried. They always made time for me and my brother and did things for us and with us when it would have been easier to claim exhaustion.
Now married with four children of our own, I spend a great deal of time wondering about how my children will reflect upon their own childhoods. Have I given them enough positive experiences to reflect upon when they are my age? Have there been enough playgrounds, museums, board games, dinners, and movies? Mostly, have they laughed enough? My thought/fear is…probably not.
I know that using my own experiences as a measuring stick for my children is not fair—the memories of their childhoods cannot and should not be the same as my own. However, there still may be some memories and traditions that I can pass down…
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When I was young, Christmas time was cookie time. Mom did all of the baking and took requests. Favorites cookies included chocolate chip, M&M, seven-layer (I loved every single layer), jewel, oatmeal (no raisins and certainly no chocolate chips), sugar (thin and buttery in Christmas shapes) and holly (involving corn flakes, melted marsh mellows, green food dye, and cinnamon red hot candies). In many ways, Christmas was defined by the smells of Mom’s baking as much as any other single sign.
While Mom baked, Dad typically stayed out of the kitchen (even at our tender young ages my brother and I understood this as a sign of his manly wisdom). However, there was a single, notable exception where he took the lead role—my Dad’s peanut butter balls. I don’t know the origin of the recipe, but the ingredients for this sweet were deceptively simple: confectionary sugar, butter, peanut butter, chocolate, and paraffin. But they came together in an ecstasy of yumminess. Mom and Dad would assemble the finished peanut butter balls in neat little rows in the refrigerator—a perfect rectangular array. I spent a large part of vacation trying to sneak these from the refrigerator and rearranging the piles so that they might not notice the missing balls.
And then my brother and I grew up. Mom and Dad relocated from Virginia to Pennsylvania in 1986. We went to college and, for some reason, the tradition of the peanut butter balls faded.
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When Mom passed away, Dad tried to find good homes for some of the things she cherished; one of those was her recipe box. Among the various recipes were all of her cookie recipes and with that was formula for the peanut butter balls. Several years ago I came up with the idea of bringing back the peanut butter balls. Perhaps more than wanting to relive my own childhood, I wanted my own four children to have the same experience that I had, from the smells of melting chocolate right down to sneaking them from the refrigerator.
So here is my Christmas Wish for all of you: that you keep alive the memories and traditions that made you happy as a child, or that you are able to make new memories with families and friends. Play your Christmas songs too loud and too often, bake too many cookies, hang too many lights, watch too many holiday specials, use too much wrapping paper, or drink too much eggnog. Make someone’s eyes sparkle, give many hugs, and pass the love of the season along.
Have a Merry Christmas,