Sugared and Spiced
by Kelly Sargent
Once upon a time, in a wintery, cedar-shingled home seventeen miles north,
I watched you bake gingerbread buddies with Grammy
to take home in the Currier & Ives tin specially reserved for that time of year.
Brushing your glistening oval face with the back of your tiny hand,
flour powdered your cheek lightly.
As pale as it colored you, I could still see your skin flushed peppermint pink
with excitement to first glimpse your round-faced buddy
as he emerged from the cherry-wood cabinet to greet you yet another year.
Grammy, wearing her festive holly and ivy cardigan, chuckled as you spun him around three times to find just the proper placement in the dough for his face that smiled good cheer at you.
When your still-sticky-with-dough fingers separated the sugar-laden mitten from his arm, Grammy assured you with an easy wave that he wouldn’t be in need of it in the oven —it was toasty enough inside.
I noticed a dash of nutmeg in her silver hair,
streaking golden in the warm light that peered through the entryway
to watch curiously from the fireplace aglow.
I remembered how she loved cinnamon sticks in her mug of pressed apple cider,
heated in a kettle instead of a saucepan on the pot-belly stove
that peeled where a belly button might nestle.
Grammy passed you the cranberry-red spatula —
the one with the knick in the handle, used only for baking.
You held it delicately in your fingers, as though you were holding a snowflake between their tips.
Lovingly, you lifted “Mr. G” above your head and slid him —
his belly portly from butter —
onto the crisp white parchment awaiting his arrival.
Eyes level with his feet, you lingered at his toes while standing on your own.
Your amber eyes sparkled like the glitter on your kindergarten creation
hanging on the refrigerator door,
steadfastly held by a magnet that framed your grinning, daisy-painted cheeks
at your school’s Spring carnival that year.
You had invited your “best friend” to be your guest.
Grammy wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Grampy peeked around the corner
as giggles and spice and everything nice wafted through the kitchen.
Holding you in his arms, you both surveyed the tidy village
populating the corner of his kitchen.
He admired handsomely-tanned faces
before abducting and tucking one into his blue flannel pocket
that had been brushed soft by holidays past.
He hummed softly on his way back to his den,
where jolly carolers huddled in his radio and jauntily welcomed his return.
Later, you kissed Grammy goodbye with lips rosy from red sprinkles.
Clutching the tin, lidded with snow-dusted Morgan horses wearing auburn coats —
it was always your favorite —
you waved at Grammy from your own fanciful “sled” in the driveway.
Pressed against a glowing pane, she waved back, already saddened by your absence.
Once home, you climbed out without delay,
your treasured, golden goodies still pressed tightly against your chest.
I spied a few stray crumbs in the backseat, and smiled at your silent stealth.
You waited on the doorstep, hushed by falling snow.
Currier & Ives, if able, would have lithographed you in the doorframe
with ornate snowflakes adorning your auburn mane,
eager to get inside to telephone your best friend
and assure her that you had arrived safely at home with your new buddies,
sugared and spiced
with everything that was nice.