Christmas with Grandchildren

We went from zero to five grandchildren in four years. Yes, you are reading that correctly. Zero. To. Five. It’s as though God put us on the entrance ramp to

grand-parenting and didn’t take his foot off the gas for several miles. We, my husband and I, went from planning trips to Europe to planning how to get an early potty training child to the bathroom in time. And the funny thing is, we never saw it coming.

Both of our children are adventurers, which we heartily encouraged, living vicariously. We never had those opportunities growing up in big families, where jockeying with siblings for much more mundane things was our normal. Our two only had to think up a scheme, find a part time job to help pay for whatever they had thought up, give us a forwarding address and they were in business. Both went abroad as exchange students, and chose to go to Scotland to university. We assumed they were off for good.

Boy, were we wrong.

As they were seeing the world, my husband and I realized a dream we had nourished and fostered for most of our married life. We moved to the Texas Hill Country. We decamped, sold the house, and then told the children. As they were scampering about the world, we did a bit of scampering too. Maybe tamer, but just as satisfying.

So, we had it all. We were the embodiment of many people’s fantasies. We bought and renovated an old rock house, I opened up my cooking school, we lived in a quiet small town, we bought a ranch, and then did what is the ultimate fantasy of all (which I still don’t understand) we bought an eleven-room bed and breakfast. Oh, and I almost forgot to add, my husband joined the volunteer fire department.

We were busy, more than we had ever been in the big city. And happy, beyond what we thought was possible. Our friends marveled at and celebrated what we had done, and came to visit, a lot. In fact we saw them more down here than we did when we lived in Dallas. We were having the time of our lives.

Then something funny happened. Our son moved back. Not to Dallas, his last permanent address. No, he moved to Fredericksburg. He needed a place to live. And a job. His master’s degree in literature didn’t have future employers leaving messages on his cell phone. So he became a bartender. It turns out he is a really good one too. That is another story.

Our daughter was still abroad though, living in Cairo, finishing her PhD. Our children were both happily bumping along in life, doing what they enjoyed, living in the moment as only twenty-somethings can. And then another funny thing happened. They both got married. Within a year of each other.

Which takes me back to the beginning of my story.

Grandchild number one came on the heels of marriage number two, sweeping me off my feet. Grandchildren two and three showed up two years later, with both my daughter and daughter-in-law due the same day. The only hitch was one lived in Fredericksburg, the other half way around the world on the island of Cyprus. Planning and logistics on those deliveries was a bit tricky. Grandchild four was a surprise, a very delightful one at that. And grandchild five made an extremely dramatic appearance and has been the apple of our eye ever since.

Now our days are full in ways we hadn’t let ourselves imagine, our children were so adamant they would “never”- fill in the blank- get married, settle down, have children. And in our daughter’s case, never move home. Which she and her husband and son did, over a year ago. My father had a saying “never say never”. If he were reading this right now he would be chuckling silently to himself.

Our friends who had crossed the threshold into grand-parenting said you won’t believe how incredible it is, and they are right. It is incredible. It is also very busy, unpredictable, hilarious, tiring, exhilarating and filled with a love so deep it continues to astonish me. One of the most surprising things about being a grandmother is getting to play again. Making up silly songs … being silly, dancing on the grass, counting to ten, over and over and over again, playing patty cake, over and over and over again. Pretending there is a pink elephant who strolls down our street every morning, waving hello to us with her trunk. She’s really sweet, by the way.

It is also a time to pass on traditions.

With Christmas around the corner I have pulled out the recipes of Grandmunner, my father’s Southern grandmother, who taught me how to bake Sand Tarts when I was a little girl no taller than her kitchen counter. These were the Christmas cookies of my childhood, greatly anticipated by all my family. I would spend endless happy afternoons helping Grandmunner roll out the dough, cutting it into shapes with old cookie cutters she had inherited from her grandmother. Her favorite decoration was a pecan half, pressed carefully in the center of each cookie, over which she sprinkled cinnamon sugar. I still remember the excitement and anticipation only a child eagerly waiting for Christmas Day can have when I got to eat the first cookie as it came out of the oven.

With that, I pass on my grandmother’s recipe to you. I went to the grocery store yesterday and got all the necessary ingredients. The grandchildren are coming over this weekend and we will be making and baking as many cookies as patience and a need for naps allow. I would imagine there will be flour on the floor, sugar liberally spread all over the counters, buttery handprints on the fridge, and sprinkles in every corner of my kitchen.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Merry Christmas from Hoffman Haus … and Bean Dear (my grandmother name). Yet another story!


Grandmunner’s Sand Tarts

2 cups sugar

3 cups flour, sifted

1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, reserve the white of the egg yolk in a small bowl!

1 cup softened butter

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl using an electric mixer.

Let the cookie dough rest about 15 minutes, in your refrigerator.

Liberally coat a cutting board with flour and roll out the dough.

Cut out cookie shapes and put them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet pan.

Beat the reserved egg white with a fork.

Brush the egg white on each of the cookies.

Decorate the cookies with whatever you like.

Bake the cookies at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until they are slightly brown around the edges.

Remove them from your oven and let them cool on a wire rack.