It still doesn’t look like much, but when you compare it to this, you’ll see that we’re making progress!
If you want to know what this is about, check out www.christmasjars.com
The mystery of Santa Claus and the anticipation of what surprises would fill my Christmas stocking were huge contributors to the mood of excited, noisy chaos that filled our home on Christmas Eve. I felt something almost magical when I carefully positioned my empty and flat Christmas stocking in its place on the couch – in line with those of my brothers and sisters – knowing that in the morning I would find it lumpy, bumpy and filled with presents, candy and an orange in the toe. Settling down to go to sleep was almost impossible for all of us. We could hardly wait for morning!
I think it was 1959 when my mother made Christmas stockings for each of us six children. After cutting them from red felt – with pinking shears, of course – she decorated each stocking the same. Shapes of a Christmas tree, snowman, and star were carefully sewn to the front of the stocking and then further trimmed with sequins and beads. On a strip of white felt at the top of the stocking she wrote each of our names in glue and then sprinkled red glitter over that so that individual ownership was sparkling clear to Santa. The jingle bell sewn to the toe of the stocking was just the right finishing touch, and we sometimes imagined we heard those bells jingle when Santa was at work. . .
I have put out that same stocking every Christmas since then. The snowman no longer has a mouth, the hanging loop has been torn off, and the bell went missing years ago. The glitter is patchy, but the name is still readable – Santa still fills it every Christmas Eve.
In December of 1972 I was a freshman at BYU dating Don Butler and wondering what would be an appropriate Christmas gift for my new boyfriend. Deciding to go the “not too serious, but still casually personal route,” I made a red felt stocking, filled it with a variety of little gifts and treats, and then gave it to him somewhat nervously. That stocking was a success that year, and has been hung every Christmas during our 37 year marriage. His name, spelled out in bold blue letters (no glitter here), leaves no question about ownership. Like my 51 year old stocking, Don’s is also showing its age, but Santa makes sure that it is never neglected.
Every year on Thanksgiving Eve, the phone rings and the conversation between North Carolina and Colorado goes something like this:
“How many batches of rolls are you making this year?”
“I think I’ll do a double. All the kids will be home.”
“I think I only need to do a single – but what if we don’t have enough?”
“That would be tragic, but don’t forget they freeze well – if any of them even make it that long.”
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The small – maybe 6×8- cookbook was stuffed in a drawer or cupboard with all other cookbooks. The nondescript white cover which announced that it was the project of the Saginaw-Midland (Michigan) ward Relief Society, was barely hanging on to the red plastic binding. It included such gems as “Tomato Soup Cake”(a spice cake that actually was pretty tasty), countless jello salad recipes, and other dishes typical to the mid-America family dinner table in the 1960’s. Certain pages were warped and ripply and stained from repeated use – evidence of which which recipes were the favorites. But the one recipe that has stood the test of time, passing from one generation to another, is for “Refrigerator Rolls”, submitted by Joyce Berrett.
Mom’s rolls have been a part of holiday meals and other special occasions for as long as I can remember. Light, fluffy and buttery, they are tender enough to eat 6 or 8 before dinner really even starts, several more with the meal, and just a couple more before dessert is served. As kids and adults, we eagerly anticipated those rolls as one of the highlights of the holidays.
So it was only natural that when I left home the roll tradition continued with my family.
I’ve made them in Isfahan, Iran.
They were part of several beach Thanksgiving picnics in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
Our young grandchildren have rolled and cut and dipped dough in butter while wearing makeshift aprons.
These rolls made an appearance in a rented vacation home, because “It’s Christmas, and we can’t have Christmas without the ROLLS.”
Our kids get almost giddy at the sight of rolls rising under the white towels.
This year I got a new Thanksgiving Eve phone call – from Nate in Huntington Beach, California.
“I’m in the grocery store. What kind of yeast do I buy for the rolls?”
And then Thursday morning that same son called with a slight tone of panic in his voice.
“I’ve just emailed you a picture of our rolls. I don’t think they worked just right. Go look at it and tell me what you think.”
The picture was inconclusive, so we did a live video chat allowing me to inspect the dough. I assured them that I thought it was just fine, but cautioned them to allow plenty of time for rising once the rolls had been shaped. They turned out beautifully.
When Pete came in Thanksgiving morning after having rolled and shaped the rolls for the Gentry family dinner, he commented, “I hope Grandma Joyce knows that all across America today people are making her rolls!” And a little later in the day, this picture came to my in box:
And that’s how we roll.
I don’t have any baby pictures of Mom, but I do love old documents!