Baking Up Nostalgia

Some of my earliest memories take place in my childhood kitchen. I’m settled up on the countertop, feet swinging, as my dad rolls out the pie crust dough made from my great-grandmother’s secret recipe. There’s a chill in the air signaling it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, and everything feels a bit magical and special.

Baking might be my love language. I bake because I love it, because I’m mentally processing, because I’m joyous, mourning, devastated, content. Many of my fondest memories involve baking, whether I was watching my dad gently tuck the pie crust into the pie plate or whipping up butterscotch bars with my Grams. I have an old red and white checkered cookbook, its pages marred by stains and sticky in places; I count it as one of my most treasured items.

I loved baking with my family, whether it was my dad and Grams or my mom and sister. Baking Christmas cookies always takes me back to years upon years of making cookies, all of us covertly sneaking little bites of dough, arguing over the rocking horse cookie cutter, nearly making ourselves sick off of the frosting, and eventually devolving into sitcom worthy flour fights that would leave us finding floury fingerprints for weeks.

As the holidays roll around each year, and especially this year, these memories linger a little closer to the surface than usual. I always ache for my family around the holidays, including the many of them that have passed on. My solace and comfort is passing along those memories, and helping my kids make their own, as we do our own holiday baking.

Each year, we whip up famous family recipes. From my maternal grandmother’s lime jello salad to my paternal great-grandmother’s famous pie crust and apple pie, we bring out the red checkered cookbook and follow the scribbled post-it notes stuck to its pages. Each Christmas, we make cut out Christmas cookies, and nearly make ourselves sick on frosting.

While we bake, I share my stories. I talk about our loved ones who live in heaven now, and who taught me which skill. I take them down memory lane as we measure and scoop, stir and roll out. All the while I share my memories, I hope I’m helping them make their own. So that one day, they may find themselves in a kitchen during a chilly, magical season, a pair of little hands helping them scoop and stir, measure and roll out. And just maybe, their voice will speak in a familiar cadence, and they’ll share the stories I shared, and they’ll share their own stories.

What’s your favorite holiday memory? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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