Wednesday, December 14, 2011

remembering oma


When I was a young girl, every year a big cardboard box package tightly wrapped in brown paper bags would arrive at our family's house the week before Christmas. It contained lovingly arranged presents and other various items, like an ornament or candle holder, and always some sort of hand towel to fill in the extra spaces. At the bottom of the box was the most special treat of all--a metal tin filled with my Oma's homemade German Christmas cookies. We each had our favorite kind, and it was oh-so-difficult to not eat them all at once, lest we have not a one left past midnight! After we each ate just one (two, if it was a big tin that year!), the metal can was promptly sealed back up--even the tissue paper lining it carefully folded back in place as if it was never touched--and under the tree it went, hidden as much as possible, to be rediscovered Christmas morning.

As I grew into an adult, I always felt like a child again around this time of year, eagerly anticipating that package with those cookies to show up on my doorstep, whatever door life had taken me to. Then came the Christmas (many years ago now), when my doorstep was empty, and the hole under my tree felt as big as the one in my heart. The loss of my Oma was deeply felt that first Christmas without the tangible gift of her love by the work of her hands in the kitchen.

That was the very same year I decided that in some small way, maybe I could honor her by taking on that tradition. I didn't have her recipes, but I did have vivid memories and a strong will to try. And so it began and has been every year since then, that at this very time of year, I put on her old apron and start baking her cookies. They will never taste quite as good as hers, but somehow (divine intervention by way of her spirit, maybe, if a grace such as that can indeed be found in a humble cookie) they come very close.

Once again, as I've started my own little family this year, I find it evermore important to carry on this tradition. It's one that gives me an overwhelming sense of peace, joy, and gratitude for my Oma.

14 comments:

  1. What a lovely, lovely post! I took up the Christmas candy-making torch after my mom passed away many years ago. It is a small thing we can do to honor their memories! :)

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  2. Very touching, Jaime. We (my mom and I) bake gingerbread men every year, using my great grandmother's recipe and a cookie cutter made by my great grandfather. It is a wonderful tradition and one I cherish more every year - as my mother just turned 88. I wear my Great Aunt Edie's apron while I mix them up. How wonderful that you've taken up the tradition and will pass it on.

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  3. That is beautiful, Jamie. Too many traditions are falling by the wayside. I love a good tradition revival! Wonderful apron, and a wonderful story. Nothing is ever as good as Grandma used to make it....

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  4. A beautiful post - and German Christmas cookies are the best! Tradition can be a wonderful thing - I treasure my grandmother's breadboard and her cornishware milk jug. Every time I use them I remember.

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  5. I Thanks for the memories. I too had an Oma living in germany, and like you said about a week before the holidays the package with Taitai's arrived ( ginger cookies in shapes of characters), and homemade gifts. We loved it because it was a little something from the old country we had left.

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  6. What a lovely heartfelt post Jaime....i bet your cookies taste wonderful and your Oma would be very proud!

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  7. Right after my son Nick came home from the hospital after his stroke I went to stay with him for the day - the first thing we did was take a 3.5 mile walk and then baked one of his favorite German cookies that was something we always did together since he was little - He said it made him feel as if all was right in his world... Cookies and the love we share in making them can carry us thru some hard times and memories.

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  8. Do you mail them in brown paper packages (tied up with string, of course) to family members? Your post put me in a mind to do just that! Thanks for the inspiration! I was just writing about holiday traditions on my blog this morning!

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  9. Oh, thank you all! I loved hearing each of your memories and traditions as well.

    Barbara, thankfully I'm able to see most of my family members during the holidays, so they actually get hand-delivered cookies!

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  10. just came by for a visit. my grandmother used to make cracker jack and I'm thankful that my brother has carried on the tradition... I hope he gets some in the mail soon! best!

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  11. Oh what I would give to spend a day in the kitchen with my grandmother. It is something I've been thinking about quite a bit lately, and it is lovely to see your post - such a beautiful tradition, and so wonderful that you'll pass this home-baked love along to your own family. Just think, perhaps someday your own daughter will tie those apron strings!

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  12. It always cracks me up my grandmother's name was Oma (yes like the birth certificate name) She was born a grandmother already...she would always send books right before Christmas to us. Oddly we never called her Oma.

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  13. My parents always make peppernuts right after Thanksgiving. Their kitchen is being remodeled right now and there are no peppernuts. So my dad bought some when he was in Newton, KS a week ago. It just isn't the same.

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  14. Oh, my. That is beautiful. There is something special about carrying on traditions with our own little families. It makes the loved ones in our heart glow.

    I sure do miss my Grandmother. I lost my Nana ten years ago but this is my first Christmas without Grandmother. I miss her dearly. It just wasn't the same this year when I made all the sugar cookie dough myself to decorate cookies. She always brought a batch of her own. I've always loved baking -thanks to both my Grandmothers.

    My mom and I always make cinnamon rolls and I make a poppyseed cake for Christmas Eve's celebration. I can taste them now!

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