Gingerbread Futures

t is an uncertain time. Not just in the great big world, but in our tiny microcosm too. In the life of a senior mom and a senior son. I didn’t know. No one told me. All of those things that seemed so exciting when they were happening to other kids, other moms. All of those things are so scary now. And fragile. Unsure.

In those beginning years, there are so many firsts. Walking, talking, the big stuff. This year is big, too. And there as so many lasts. The last game. The last pep rally. The last first quarter. And second quarter. Where before, school seemed to creep by, now it is moving lightening fast. And we just want to hang on for another moment. Take it in.

You are just beginning, I tell him, I tell us. Life has just begun. There are so many firsts yet to happen. You will see. I promise you.

You don’t know, mom, I am told. And he is right. I don’t.

We are in our tenth year of the Gingerbread Party. I think. Honestly, I don’t know. The senior boys were little when we started. Missing teeth, light sabers. They spilled drinks, ate too much candy. Ripped apart the toys and games carefully constructed for the event. Several fought over a plastic train, tightly clenched fists and angry faces. I remember that. The dad packed it up and put it away. Maybe next year, he told me. Maybe next time.

Those little boys eagerly decorated a cookie and wanted another. Only one, I would say. That’s the limit, there aren’t enough. They’d run outside for street hockey, tag. Just to run. One party, there was snow. A big storm. We barely saw them that year. Off to sled and snowball fight, they left the grownups with the cookies.

I hired an elf back then, my babysitter extraordinaire, the only elf able to handle a crowd of too many boys. She would arrive through the back door. With a bag of candies and a carefully coached list of questions. And the interrogation would begin. You aren’t a real elf. What’s in the bag? Bring it on, she’d smile.

My senior son has added his own friends to the party. It has become his, too. They are big boys. Some with unshaven faces. Others with smiles that I know break the hearts of many. Hi Mrs. Darwin, they smile, when they enter, kicking off shoes, breaking my heart just a little. A lot. No light sabers or missing teeth. Instead egg nog, suspiciously carried to another room. A plate of cookies, baked by another mom. Another mom of a senior son.

They do not run, play tag, street hockey. They sit. Watch football, compare fantasy scores, laugh about things I do not know. Arrive back in the kitchen each time the bell rings, eagerly anticipating a new plate of food. The old-timers, the boys from the early Gingerbread days, ask for the cookie to decorate. Take two, I say, I have many. No limit. They smile and place M&M eyes. Devour M&M smiles. Thank you, they say. And I think: Thank you for you.

We convene, I insist, when the hour gets late, when I am ready to wrap it up and clean the house, pour the egg nog down the sink. To the living room! To the living room! I holler up the stairs, down the stairs. To the younger kids, out the door, the back yard, the street. I smile, too widely, too happily, as I assess my house, my living room too small to fit my guests, too warm this Christmas season. Overwhelmed with boyhood.

And we sing. Just the easy songs. Rudolph and Frosty and Deck the Halls. There is no eye rolling on this day. There is no need to convince them to continue the tradition. There never was. There is just singing. It is merry. It is my favorite part of Christmas.

At the end, I tell the senior boys to stand and sing together. And they do. We watch them. Not just the senior moms, either, but all of us. Moms and dads and brothers and sisters. The moms of the youngers smile, excited at this time, this time of other moms’ senior boys.

I do not know the future. I cannot begin to predict. But this I know, my son, with unwavering certainty. There will be Gingerbread Parties. There will be laughter and good times. We will be together, in that increasingly tiny living room. And we will sing. Your friends and my friends. With not enough egg nog and too many cookies. It will not be a first or a last. There is goodness in that.

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