However, a pause in the commiserating ultimately leads to a reminder of the wise words of charming, debonair French actor Maurice Chevalier — “Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.”
Moving closer to a life of six decades and embracing those words of wisdom, it is easy to slide into a zone of deliberation about other specific positive aspects related to the mountain of years. Straightforwardly stated, growing older grants endless opportunities to discover greater joy in life’s simple pleasures.
Watching the birds visit the birdfeeder as they mimic our human personalities — territorial Tufted Titmice, timid but persistent Carolina Chickadees, and perpetually busy Cardinals … Noting a brother’s obvious delight as he plays on the floor with a trio of granddaughters… Catching a glimpse of our friends’ twelve-foot, backyard, blow-up Snoopy, who wears a Santa hat and eagerly awaits the arrival of Mississippi and North Carolina grandchildren…
Watching the children who are near and dear to our hearts grow up and move on to raising their own children certainly ranks as one of these treasured pleasures.
Twenty years ago, Miranda, my then 10-year-old niece from New York City, leapt into my arms at the airport gate in Birmingham when she arrived for her first of many Alabama summers.
She easily became the sister in our family of boys and continued her visits until the anticipation of college costs required full-time summer employment. Today Miranda is a lovely young mother, wife and physician, raising her own 2-year-old daughter, Amelia.
Now living close enough to come for a day visit, last week Miranda and Amelia took a field trip to Jasper. With solid, happy memories of cookie baking parties for my December-born son’s second, third and fourth birthdays and Christmas cookie baking events each year after, I prepared a double batch of sugar cookie dough from my revised version of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe in her cookbook, Rose’s Christmas Cookies.
Amelia, unflappably independent, focused, and tenacious like her mother, worked for more than an hour, cutting out and decorating most of the double recipe of dough.
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter- softened at room temperature
? cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ? cups all-purpose flour
? teaspoon salt
Edible Tempera Color:
2 large egg yolks
Liquid food color- box of four assorted colors
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy.
3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until the mixture is well-blended.
4. Whisk the flour and salt together in a small bowl. Gradually add it to the creamed mixture at low speed.
5. Add a few drops of water if necessary to complete the mixing process.
6. Shape the dough into a ball. Wrap it in wax paper and refrigerate for about two hours. For later use, put the dough in a plastic container and freeze.
7. For the tempera color, equally spoon the egg yolks into four small bowls. Add a drop or two of food color to the yolks and stir well. If the colors are too thick, add a drop or two of water.
8. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface.
9. Cut out cookies using your favorite Christmas cookie cutters.
10. With a small spatula, transfer the cookies to a greased cookie sheet. If desired, paint the cookies with the tempera color using a small paintbrush. Decorate with colored sugar, nonpareils, and other sprinkles.
11. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to brown.
After enjoying sugar cookie baking sessions for more than 30 years, other bakers’ smart tips are continually discovered and utilized. Amelia’s paternal grandmother, an economist by training and background, with her focus on efficiency, rolls out all the dough at once, decorates the entire recipe of dough with sprinkles, and then cuts out the cookies.
The after-cutting dough pieces, which she calls the “in-betweens,” are also baked and make a great treat for the bakers.
Timeless Toys, Timeless Joys
As the years fly by, the strong, magnet-like attraction to finding down-to-earth, simple happiness gives us permission to pause in our daily routines and take brief detours. On a set-in rainy morning, a mere few weeks before Christmas, the guilt-provoking, to-do holiday list stares up from the car console.
Nonetheless, the Timeless Toys Exhibit at the Bankhead House and Heritage Center wins the covert tug-of-war and successfully lures those searching for halls of sunshine when the sun refuses to cooperate.
Glowing with its own inherent beauty and complemented by a collection of toys that speaks to all ages, through Dec. 28 the Bankhead House is transformed into a warm, enchanting Santa’s workshop. With charm and ease, the diverse array of toys shared by folks in the community reaches out and touches everyone who walks through the door, even those who were certain they stopped believing years ago.
June and Bill Hudson’s bright yellow bicycle built for two and pedal-propelled riding toys, including Jack Baldwin’s Farmall tractor and Missie Hudson’s blue convertible, share the spotlight with electric football, Wesley Savage’s trains from around the world, several handmade dolls with fragile paper-mache faces, a Barbie doll outfitted in her original black and white swimsuit, and Lisbeth Thornley’s hula hoop.
The use of enlarged photographs of the toys being enjoyed by their owners distinctly enhances the inescapable underlying sense that for a blink of a moment, you are right there with them.
Show-stopping and amazing, the elegant, intricately detailed dollhouse built by Ray and Linda Lewis, is carefully placed in the first display room inside the front door entrance.
A testament to two years of meticulous patience, the dollhouse warrants a thoroughly long look to appreciate its multiple amenities — hand-cut wood shingles… an inviting porch swing… games, books, carpet, and wallpaper designed to scale… a piano that plays… real toilet paper.
Held close to her heart and lovingly saved, Mrs. Florence Johnson’s set of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs figurines tell their own story of an era many of us could never imagine. The set was purchased for ten cents by her mother, Dollie Miller Studdard, in 1932 from Sig Shapiro’s five and dime store in Carbon Hill.
An amazing feat in the midst of the Great Depression, Dollie sold a quilt for $2.50 which allowed her to buy Christmas gifts for her eight children as well as sugar, flour, and coffee.
A cookie baking project with a great niece… Snoopy in the backyard…a detour to the toys… birds at the feeder… Delightful chances to discover extraordinary joy greet us every day. The wise among us will recognize and gratefully welcome these dividends of the years.
Note to Readers: For the last three years, “Second Thought” has been my tool for bringing a smile, sharing a memory, and making friends through the beauty of language. The Daily Mountain Eagle has graciously given me wonderful space for my words and photographs while allowing me to write from my heart. I appreciate its generosity as well as the kind and encouraging words from my readers.
For the next few months, the column and I are taking a sabbatical. I hope to return in some form as an improved and revitalized writer.
Margaret Dabbs is a freelance columnist who resides in Jasper. Her column appears every other Wednesday in the Lifestyles section. Comments and suggestions are welcomed by contacting Dabbs at 205-387-2890