There is nothing sadder than the disappointment of a child on Christmas morning.
Nor is there anything as delightful as the shining eyes of a child who spies his most favored Christmas wish peeking out from under the limbs of a family’s brilliantly lit tree. Over the years, filling the Christmas wishes of our children has had mixed results. Our children never seemed to be about the gifts they received. They always seemed to be intent on playing together, enjoying Christmas dinner, and treats along the way. To this day they express that Christmas in our home was always magical.
I don’t know exactly what made Christmas magical in our home.
I think it is just how our kid’s hearts are, but I’d like to also think it was the expression of love through the festivities of the season, whether it was seeing Santa; filling the wishes of those who have less; cooking; or the decorating that commenced with finding a fresh tree to decorate on the day after Thanksgiving.
I was reminiscing the other night about a couple of Christmases that didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned.
The year we worked on my son’s potty training, we promised him that when he was successful, perhaps Santa would bring him the battery-operated jeep he always visited in the local “Value House.” It proved to be the perfect incentive. That Christmas, his dad brought in the jeep and set it up under the tree. I was greatly excited to see his eyes in the morning. I barely slept. In the morning I stood in the living room, camera ready, that I might capture this very special moment. It was special all right! He came from his room to stand on the first step down into the living room. He took one look at the jeep and threw up. Sometime in the night, he had been gifted with the flu.
Another year, my husband and I came down with the flu shortly before Christmas. My sister-in-law came from Michigan to help us with our three toddlers. Two days before Christmas, I went up and down the aisles of Toys R Us. The next night I sat on the floor and wrapped my purchases. I’m known for my package presentations, so my husband was surprised I hadn’t adorned the gifts with the usual accoutrement of ribbons, bows, and extra shine. I replied, “The kids won’t notice. They’ll be excited just to have their presents.” The next morning our youngest (think Little Cindy Lou Who) who was that year three years old, stood at the entrance to the living room. As she gazed at the presents under the tree, she exclaimed: “Santa’s reindeer ate all of the decorations!”
Never think your children don’t notice what you do or don’t do.
With our wee ones, most Christmas’ were filled with prettier memories. We used to have folks in for a Christmas Eve feast until one year the kids said they’d rather have just family time, so we started a new Christmas Eve tradition. We would open one gift, which was always an ornament. Then we would read stories, after which the kids would all sleep together in one room as they awaited Santa’s arrival.
From my own childhood, I am most fond of remembering my mother in her kitchen, baking and creating.
Especially at Christmas time, her flour-dusted apron would often go on in the morning and would not be taken off until well past my bedtime. She was unsurprisingly magical at making the creamy, fluffy confection known as divinity. The first nibble of this magical delight would settle gently in my mouth where it would transport me into a world where fantasy became real.
My girls especially loved Christmas divinity and while my mom was alive, she provided the magic. After she passed, that wand was passed to me.
My girls had a toy Cinderella castle.
While waiting for gooey egg whites and white sugar to magically transform into divinity, they would dress-up as princesses; gather their dolls and set up their castle in preparation to welcome their “princess candy.” For the remainder of the afternoon, I would hear them giggling as they made up stories to fit their grand adventures with candy and a castle.
Christmas holds the most magical of memories when looked at through the eyes of a child. We must never forget what it is to be a child, because no matter our age, that is where the real magic lives.
Gramma’s 1915 Divinity
Pick a dry day to make this heavenly confection. A humid day can make it turn out to be more like taffy, than the light and airy candy that is divinity. Have an airtight container for storing this candy, it doesn’t keep well. That’s good, right? All the better for an excuse to eat and share!
2 egg whites from medium sized eggs – room temperature
Bring to a boil in a heavy sauce pan:
1/2 cup water 1/2 cup light corn syrup
Dissolve the following in the above ingredients:
2 cups organic caster sugar (this is a fine sugar that can be made by pulsing refined, granulated sugar in a blender or food processor)
Once this comes to a boil, cover the saucepan and cook about 3 mins – or until the steam washes down any crystals that may have formed on the sides of the pan. Do not scrape down sides. Remove lid and cook over moderate heat, without stirring, to about 250 degrees (hard ball stage)
While syrup is cooking, beat egg whites in a large bowl until they just hold their shape. If you beat them too dry, the syrup will not incorporate well.
When the syrup is ready, pour it slowly, but steadily in a thin stream, over the egg whites – whipping slowly at the same time. As you progress with pouring the syrup, pour it faster and whip more quickly. Do not scrape syrup pan.
Once all of the syrup has been added other variations can be created. A drop or two of food coloring; chopped nutmeats; raisins; crushed peppermint hard candy.