That’s the way the cookies crumbled

by Lisa Smith Molinari
Special to Stars and Stripes

There is a certain kind of limbo that takes place between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a confusing time when it feels like something that has been celebrated for weeks has finally come to an end. But you are expected to carry on like it didn’t. According to the unwritten rule book, your duty is to drag out the festivities for six more long days.

During the weeks leading up to December 25th, Christmas seemed to be coming too fast. “There’s not enough time!” you protest, rushing here and there in a festive frenzy. You want it to slow down, so you can savor every spruced, spiked, sprinkled and sparkling minute.

And then, it’s over. You awake the day after Christmas, and just the way a new car rapidly depreciates after driving it off a dealer’s lot, the holiday suddenly seems weary, like you’ve been at it forever. The water in the tree stand is topped with a verdant scum. Pine needles lay around the sagging tree like a police chalk outline after a homicide. The little doors on the advent calendars have all been opened. Half of the twinkle lights on the porch have burnt out.

And the Christmas cookies are stale.

You know that it’s your duty to carry on, so you resist the urge to chuck the tree out into the gutter to await the garbage truck and tip the entire platter of cookies into the trash. You vacuum the needles, set the rest of the working lights ablaze, ask Alexa to play those darned holiday favorites and hope your ears don’t bleed, then you set your sights on refurbishing that cookie platter.

The cookie exchange was almost two weeks ago. You brought these scrumptious morsels home to the delight of your family. There were nostalgic sugar cookie cutouts, popular peanut blossoms, delicate Russian tea cakes, gooey caramel tartlets, spicy gingersnaps, old-fashioned chewy oatmeal bars, lacy toffee crisps, chocolatey fudge, crunchy pizzelles, and a few low-sugar, gluten-free, allergen-free, dairy free, egg-free health cookies made of unknown ingredients. Back then, you were in a savoring mood, so you kindly warned your family to not eat too many, so the treats would last through the season.

Now in holiday limbo, you realize that you should have told your family to stuff their faces, and quick, because the cookie platter is a battered, crumbled, haggard mess. You remove the tangled piece of cellophane that has long ceased to serve its purpose, shake the plate free of cast-off crumbs and displaced sprinkles, rearrange the pieces as creatively as possible and top it with new cellophane. But your efforts to make the old baked goods seem perpetually fresh and eternally appetizing are ultimately doomed.

No matter how distinct each cookie was when you greedily collected them at your friend’s party, you are powerless to stop the chemical processes that took place under that cellophane. Due to moisture equilibrium, the gingersnaps have lost their snap. The fudge has begun to sweat. The once-chewy oatmeal bars are rigid. When you bite into the gooey caramel tartlet, the crust gives way with a displeasing mush, while the hardened center grabs ahold of your tooth like Gorilla Glue, threatening to remove your filling. And thanks to the pizzelles, the whole lot of them now taste like anise. Blech.

You persevere, until all you’re left with is the sugar cookie that is burnt on the bottom, the peanut blossoms from which someone swiped the Hershey’s Kisses, a few rock-hard bricks of fudge, and every single one of the low-sugar, gluten-free, allergen-free, dairy-free, egg-free health cookies made of unknown ingredients.

It isn’t easy, but you do it for six long days because it’s your duty. You do it because the holiday isn’t over until 2019. You do it because there are starving people in the world. You do it because some idiot once said, “Waste not, want not.” You do it because it’s the right thing to do.

You do it, because you’re one tough cookie.

Read more of Lisa Smith Molinari’s columns at: themeatandpotatoesoflife.com

Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@googlemail.com

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