It seemed like a good idea at the time. You know, in that same category as opening another bottle of wine or giving your phone number to the guy who’d later become your husband.
It was a bit of synchronicity really. My husband saw a gingerbread kit at the supermarket. Then my neighbour – who makes Martha Stewart look lazy – announced she was making a gingerbread village.
So, I took the plunge and purchased a gingerbread train assembly kit with an “E-Z Build Tray.” I should’ve known better than to trust a company that can’t spell easy.
“You’re in the middle of what?” my husband asks. I believe he nearly dropped his cell phone.
“Putting together a gingerbread house-thing,” I say, starting to doubt my already-weak confidence.
“Good luck with that,” he says. “I’ll be home soon.”
I pick up the box to see what I’m in for. Now, you know you’re in trouble when the instructions on the back direct you to watch a video. This isn’t an “add water and stir” muffin mix; this is a twelve step program. Since the nicely-manicured hand on the video constructs the train and caboose in just over two minutes, I am optimistic. Plus, given the gingerbread is pre-baked and the icing is pre-made, what could be so hard?
If the video doesn’t scare me off, the phone should when it rings again. It’s my neighbour – the Martha Stewart one who’s not only crafty but also kind and beautiful. She has just finished baking her umpteenth batch of cookies, bonding with her children. Can her daughter come over and play?
“Of course,” I say, before realizing there’ll be a witness to the carnage that is bound to happen.
I watch the video two more times, answer the door when her daughter arrives, and start peeling the plastic off the kit.
“Have you done one of these with your mom yet?” I ask, making conversation.
“Actually, my dad’s the one who usually makes it.” Excellent, now I’ll be compared to her dad, not a gourmand like his wife, but a let’s-build-a-dresser-and-paint-the-room-on-my-day-off type of guy.
I reread the directions on the box. The volume level in the kitchen is rising in direct proportion to the amount of candy that’s being pilfered from the gingerbread kit.
“Quiet,” I yell. “I need to think.”
This whole experience is bringing me to my knees.
First, I’m supposed to snap the pieces in half. I do this and the pieces break, but not where they’re supposed to. I end up using the icing to glue most of the pieces back to a recognizable shape. I let the kids eat a couple of wayward hunks.
Then my eight-year-old neighbour says, “You cut the hole on the icing bag way bigger than my dad does.” Uh oh.
Icing is everywhere: all over the pieces, all over the counter, all over me. I am now putting icing on the wrong pieces, and eventually resort to smearing it on with a knife. I construct something that resembles a train. You just have to use your imagination.
Finally, near exhaustion, I tell the kids to stick the candy on. They take pieces out of their mouths and plunk them on the icing.
“Is it leaning?” I ask, tilting my head.
“Yeah,” my neighbour says. “You forgot to let the icing dry first.”
“Okay, you three, go play,” I say. Then I lick the icing off the knife, eat the rest of the candies, and look up to see my husband walk in.
He examines our construction. “Nice outhouse – no offense. Do you know it’s leaning?”