The Smell of Christmas.

Each year it’s the same. We sit, stacks of 3X2 inch wax paper rectangles in easy reach of our left hands with the cracked, wooden cutting board on the front porch to chill in the frosty December air. If it’s chilled the caramels don’t stick so much. When did we learn this trick? Somewhere between the years I guess. The years from when I could barely see over the table to when I graduated from high school. Somewhere too, we learned to cut the wrappers with a miniature paper cutter rather than scissors. Sheets of wax paper held tight with blue cloths-pegs borrowed from the downstairs laundry room.

I was thinking about it the other day, he said last night, what it must be like for you having always done this.

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What could it possibly be like, I wonder, to not have always done this?

Each year it’s the same. We sit, swapping impossibly aimless banter – who can outdo the other with stupidity? How many times can we have exactly the same conversation? It will never cease to amaze us the first time we taste a new batch: It’s perfect, we exclaim. Every time. Well except when it’s not. But we know that as soon as it’s done. We fix it.

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Each year it’s the same. I sit to the right of the cutting board. Dad cuts the single jellyroll pan sized caramel into 250 individual mouthfuls. Together our fingers fly to turn corners and fill gold boxes with love. We race sometimes. Seven caramels each in one minute. We are equally paced, although these days (these past ten, twenty years) I do most of the wrapping. Dad keeps me steadily supplied with freshly pressed squares of candy. Our production line is smooth with easy practice.

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Each year it’s the same. I try to wrap so fast he can’t possibly keep up. But the white handled knife that has cut every caramel ever wrapped in this house is always one step ahead. It takes us an hour. And then our work is stacked in a glowing pyramid on the buffet. Always the same place, the same handwriting on top of the boxes. Your name. With love from us.

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And I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have always done this.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Margaret McCamant says:

    And we’re blessed to be on the recipient list. They are perfect caramels. We always marvel at the precisely wrapped squares, having once tried making caramels but resorting to wrapping papers with twisted ends. Thank you all so much.

    All four of us are here in Chicago for these days before Christmas; on Christmas afternoon we’ll all fly to Minneapolis for a few days with my mother.

    1. kmarguerite says:

      Merry Christmas to all of you! Thinking of you this holiday season, we are sending a lot of love along with those caramels.

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