A Tale of Gingerbread Houses and Panic Attacks

This article is alternatively titled: T-minus fourteen days until Christmas – How are you holding up?

Like everything else in the world right now, this holiday season is proving a mixed bag as we work our way through the Snyder Family 2020 Christmas Bucket List.

First, let’s talk about how incredible gingerbread houses are. I realize I am coming late to this party, but I just didn’t have a lot of gingerbread experience growing up. I have a vague memory of my grandfather creating a cardboard house that we covered with graham crackers, but holiday home construction was not something I had personally attempted in several decades.

It was my older daughter’s idea to do the gingerbread houses and she would tolerate no half-hearted attempts. I showed her a few pre-baked, ready-to-assemble kits online, but these were met with derision. We were baking our own this year. Full stop. When I tried to argue that it would take forever, she masterfully countered with – “what else are we doing?”

Fair point, kid. Let’s grab the stand mixer.

I intended to create one house for each child, following a recipe from the internet that claimed to make enough dough for one house. Because math is not my very strongest suit, it didn’t occur to me that the quantities in the recipe seemed generous for a single house, so I obligingly rounded up 18 cups of flour, 3 cups of molasses, mountains of brown sugar, and an astonishing quantity of powdered ginger. Thankfully, I started with a double batch (not triple), the dough from which was sufficient to create five (!!) gingerbread houses and a squadron of gingerbread people and Christmas trees.

We subscribed to the “more is better” philosophy when it came to decoration supplies and armed ourselves with M&Ms, peppermints, chocolate chips, marshmallows, gummy bears, and about 14 kinds of sprinkles. It cost a small fortune to produce our edible village, but do not judge me for attempting to buy my children’s happiness this holiday season. It’s 2020. We go big where we can.

To counterbalance some of the inwardly-focused spending, we also signed up to provide Christmas presents for two kids whose families are struggling this year. My children and I grabbed the wish lists and headed to the store.

Which was an epic mistake.

I had failed to truly consider the over-populated hellscape that would await us within the doors of Walmart at 4pm on a Saturday, three weeks before Christmas. There were absolute hordes of shoppers – more people than I’ve been around in a single setting in months. Most of them were wearing masks. Some of them were not and it was all I could do not to whip out my pocket hand sanitizer and start waving it around like an incense censor in a Catholic church.

Eventually, the anxiety got to be too much. I started counting people and realized that, statistically, it was virtually guaranteed that someone in that building was infected with COVID. We abandoned the grocery portion of my shopping list, raced through the checkout lane, and fled. With the astonishing cluelessness that only a ten-year-old boy can display, my son took this opportunity to rip open a package of gum – with his bare, germy fingers!!! – and pop it in his mouth in the parking lot.

I briefly considered making him gargle with hand sanitizer, but common sense and a basic understanding of poison control ultimately won out.

And that, my friends, is the 2020 holiday season. It’s equal parts panic and fun, stress and joy. But I’m pretty sure my kids will remember the gingerbread houses and the fun of shopping for others far longer than they will Mom’s Walmart Meltdown. And that’s the important thing.

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