But SOMEONE has to feed the goats...

On a snowy, December train ride into Cleveland, Ohio, in the year 1922, a five-year-old girl’s life would be changed forever.  She and her mother had a chance encounter with a feverish young soldier who insisted that the girl sit on his lap.  It seemed he had recently bid goodbye to a daughter just her age as he left for duty.  She became deathly ill several days later with diphtheria.  Fortunately for her family, they had a close friend who was a doctor that worked at the W.R.U. School of Medicine.  They had a new serum that doctors were only beginning to use that would later become the diphtheria vaccine.  She was one of the first children to receive the injections, for fourteen days straight, and by what was always called a Christmas miracle she lived.  That little girl’s name was Genevieve, but we always just called her Aunt Jimmy.  

She and my uncle Paul, along with their two boys, lived on a very sharp turn on a very busy Superior Road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  Although we didn’t see them very often, our yearly visits were always preceded by great anticipation. As children we looked forward to these visits for many reasons, most important of which was that she was the best baker in town.  

We knew that she would have freshly baked goodies.  We knew that she would have lovely books for us as gifts.  We knew that our Uncle Paul would take us to his musty basement and show us his newly polished stones, or other fascinating scientific discoveries.  We knew we would be able to snoop through our cousin’s rooms- that were always filled with amazing toys and more scientific gadgets that they used in all their mad scientist experiments!  We also knew what we thought our parents didn’t – that hidden in her attic, and tucked under large layers of clear wrapping paper was a magical, mystical, incredible candy-filled city. 

My aunt and uncle were known far and wide (in Cleveland) for their incredible candy creations.  They weren’t your ordinary candy houses.  Oh no, to these young nieces and nephew they were mansions!  The biggest and bestest candy houses ever known to mankind! My sister and I would sneak up into the attic when we thought no one was looking and begin the hunt. 

We would find these creations and peel away the coverings to gently reveal the treasures underneath – exposing each architectural wonder.   We stood and gazed at them for what seemed like hours, and to this day I can remember the smell and the feeling I had gazing at these wonders.

I am reminded of Aunt Jimmy’s candy houses each time I get ready to tackle the task of making them in my classroom.  Although we’ve had to re-name them over the years (Christmas cottages, holiday houses, candy houses and finally, teddy bear cottages) the spirit in which they are made remains the same.
With candy, icing and confectioners sugar flying, the children burst with the excitement and joy of the season.  And during the cottage construction, if you’re really lucky, you’ll be privy to some enlightening conversations:

“I don’t know why Joseph and Mary couldn’t have slept on a pull out couch at a friend’s house. That’s what we do.”
“I DID see Santa.  I am not kidding.”
“Mom my made me give a dollar to Jesus. Now I only have nine.”
“My cousin celebrated Hanukkah and they lighted a Menudo.”
“And I know there was a star.  And when you follow the star, it leads you to SANTA!”

And finally, I sent the children out the door covered with confectioners sugar, glitter, and a package of “reindeer food” that we magically mixed together with glitter, marshmallows and love.  One of my little girls was asked by a child in another room what it was.  Her response?

“I think it’s for the goats.”


Everyday Goddess said...

Beautiful, sweet memories!

I'm a big fan of making gingerbread houses - I've got plans for this year's model in the works, stay tuned.

When's the Menudo lighting? ;)

needsatimeout said...

I have never ever made a gingerbread house. I wanted to make one this weekend but all the kits were sold out at the store. I am hoping to find one soon.

Brian Miller said...

mary and joseph on a pull out couch...ha...nice tale VM...cool to know these stories...love making gingerbread houses...

Mrs. Lynch said...

aww man, you warmed my heart and made me laugh at the same time. That is too cute. I loved the memories. I felt like a kid again just reading it, and I needed that. The minute you drop a runt or two or three, you become Santa and Christmas isn't the same. Thank you, you brought me back to being 5 years old again, being filled with wonder and joy. That is why I love this blog.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Oh the joy! I think I love you! :)
Just came from The Blueridge Gal, who I love, and read this!
Christmas does not just happen..you have to make it..and you have just made my Christmas! It will always be my favorite time of the year..because me and my family make it so. The little ones comments..just warmed my heart. Of course I had seven children, if that tells you anything! 19 grands and greats..to date!
Thank you!!

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

Oops! My family and I!! :)

So. Cal. Gal said...

I've always wanted to light a Menudo. ; ) The soup smells really bad and I bet you shoot flames from eating it.

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

This is such a great story. So well written as well and my hat is off to you for your writing abilities. :-) Happy Holidays to you and the goats.

Just Two Chicks said...

Very sweet! One question... the glitter... Is it mixed with the marshmallows? If so, do you tell the kids it is for the reindeer only, or put the reindeer food in a wrapped package? I'm just curious, because when I taught kindergarten in one of my districts, we had to make sure that everything in the reindeer food, was edible and healthy because the kids were known to try it out themselves. This was one of those events the "Free Range" mom blog would look down upon, because we had to be so extra cautious... LOL. It's good you have more freedom than that. My last school was like yours. I could do anything I wanted as long as they were learning :)

Sizzling said...

Nice post as always :)

Pamela said...

I used to live on a sharp curve on Superior in Cleveland Heights. I love it there.