My parents and I moved in with Dad’s parents before my brother was born. They were looking for a place to live in Texas, but it was also the last two years of my Grandmother’s life. The memories I have are vague as she died in April 1977 just before Ethan was born.
She was determined. She was not supposed to live to see her 5th birthday, because she had gotten so ill (possibly scarlet fever). It damaged her body and kidneys. She was not supposed to live to see my dad’s 5th birthday, and she survived until a month before my 5th…
Her parents and eldest siblings came over from Germany in 1905, so there is a strong tie to Germany. That being said, they moved to the US to become Americans, not German-Americans. So she spoke German, but not often around us. There were little German reminders, such as teaching me “Oh Tannenbaum” instead of “Oh Christmas Tree.” Too many years have passed for me to sing it anymore.
Back then, there were family Christmas parties. These were her side of the family, so the German heritage showed more during these special events. While they used mostly English, terms of endearment were German, especially with children, of which there were very few. They sang “O Tannenbaum” and “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night). There were a few special dishes from Germany, but more often German twists on conventional, such as adding apples to the stuffing. But there was this “Christmas” smell, a German smell of….
Orange, spice, and molasses.
You might say like gingersnaps but with orange. She made a cookie that had this smell. My memories are faulty as I was so little. My memories recall stars and icing laces, but stronger than anything was the smell.
Then over Thanksgiving, the sister in law of “that guy in NM” offered me a cookie from a specialty bakery and suddenly I was sitting on the floor in the breakfast room, the bar blocking most of my view of the kitchen. While I couldn’t see much of my Grandmother and Mom in the kitchen much, I could smell the wonderful orange, spice and molasses. With that box, all I could think about was Grandmother’s cookies. Since I was full, I intended to get a cookie the next day, but forgot. The problem with too many choices.
The cookies are Lebkuchen, but no one has her actual recipe. Actually there are a couple of recipes the family wants but we do not have. A few years ago I looked for “Pink Stuff” and came across something my family loves. We are still looking for a Cranberry Relish recipe.
However, with a little help from friends, we found a similar recipe. After some variations from memory my kitchen smelled of Lebkuchen (Lebkuchen Recipe). The major variation was making icing with confectioners sugar and orange juice (instead of water). The recipe was “it.” Exactly what I remembered, more importantly what my parents remembered.
It brings back warm memories. The family parties are gone. The sisters are gone, only one brother remains. As my blood family disappears, I felt the need to revive a memory.
Now I share it with my new family. You, my friends, and the family in NM.
Leben Sie, Lachen, Liebe, (live, laugh, love)
PS Two videos, so you can hear the songs in German.
PPS Look forward to the next of the 30 Days of Truth on the 12th.