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Meanwhile, the gingerbread house burns

A colony of gingerbread homes. Credit: Photo: Toni Holmes

I don’t have a good feeling about these gingerbread houses.

Last week at the grocery store our youngest daughter asked carefully and politely if we could buy a gingerbread house kit. Technically, she asked three times — once in produce, again in dairy and again at the checkout stand, where she questioned whether I’d really said yes or not. I repeated my answer — I will bar no attempt to procure a gingerbread house at an indeterminate point in the future. In other words, we’ll see.

That night, seated together at the otherwise deserted dinner table, she fiddled with the frayed tassels of her reindeer-maiden Lapland beanie, while I absently thumbed through a Wikipedia article about the scourge of the Vikings.

She smiled faintly and announced raffishly that she had some great ideas for decorating the girl’s gingerbread house. Uh-huh, I said mechanically, engrossed in an account of Cnut the Bloodthirsty. "Hey, wait a minute," I said. "Nobody mentioned anything about separate girls’ and boys’ gingerbread houses."

Her older sister joined us, standing behind her sister’s chair. She said that Mom told them today that they could have separate girls’ and boys’ gingerbread houses if they weren’t too expensive.     

Our youngest girl continued cheerfully. Gretel, one of her classmates, bit off the head of one of her gingerbread men and painted the resulting stump bloody-red. Both sisters cackled.

Fear gripped me. This gingerbread house thing was going to be just like the pumpkin carving party last month. Inter-gender rivalry. Butcher knives jabbed into pumpkins with stringy pumpkin guts spewing from the wounds. Competitive gourd-based potty humor.  Vulgar candle-lit pumpkins leering at us in the dark.      

And, after escalating disagreements culminating in the tormented howls of the vanquished and subsequent heartrending appeals to Mom or possibly Dad, each kid will surely end up decorating their own gingerbread house. We’ll blow a hundred and fifty bucks. And they’ll all have fake poo on their houses. Or fake blood. Or fake barf. Which might be made with buttercream frosting and bits of dry toast.

"No way," I said, hoping to sound emphatic. "We have invited houseguests for Christmas. And at least one of you is going to put a giant fake poo on your house. I’m sure of it." They protested their innocence, before bursting into frank guffaws.  

Our oldest daughter said it might be really cool to have blood all over the yard and a severed gingerbread head tossed into a stand of plastic sushi grass. They cackled again.

Our oldest boy, drawn like a shark to these gory references, stood next to his sisters while I repeated my concerns, concluding with the prediction that each decorated house will surely feature poo, quite prominently displayed. Possibly made from tootsie-rolls, using frosting to attach them.  

He eagerly broke into a description of some sort of apocalyptic gingerbread scene, constructed of tootsie rolls and red vines, somehow wound around each other. He made a spinning motion as if reeling in a whopper to illustrate. “Atomic bomb” would be written on the side. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I appreciated his apparent clarity of vision.

My wife Maria passed by, struggling with an armload of laundry. I addressed her wake as she lurched into the laundry room, asking if it was true that she had promised the girls that they could have separate girls' and boys' gingerbread houses. Her voice echoed from the laundry room. She frankly admitted giving conditional approval for separate gender-assigned gingerbread houses, and suggested that if I wanted to help with the laundry, she’d be happy to discuss it further.

Several days passed without mention of gingerbread houses. Late-morning on Saturday, we loaded up the minivan with kids and a two-inch thick wad of coupons for an early-season shopping safari. Gingerbread houses were seemingly forgotten.

Late afternoon, Maria and I made breathless rendezvous at the vehicle after three hours exposure to a fully-engulfed holiday shopping mall. She reported that the bed and bath store had cases of Canadian gingerbread house kits stacked on an endcap, 10 bucks a piece, a Super-Savvy-Saver Pre-Holiday Sale, limit 12 per customer, some restrictions apply. Maria had a coupon for an additional 20 percent off.

"We could outfit the neighborhood," I muttered. If nothing else, we’ll dish up their gingerbread outhouses for dessert at the kid's table this Christmas. With a nice cup of tea.  

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