It started innocently enough. HDK & Zanner and TBG & I were celebrating our first holiday season as working adults and we gave them a pan of my brownies and they gave us fire place tools. You know what I'm talking about..... the big brass stand and the little broom and dust pan and the oversized tongs and the pokey thing that's the only piece you ever really use anyway so why are the rest of them there????
Well, dear reader, I was abashed. Obviously, there was a mysterious Christmas gift giving code to which I was not privy. TBG was able to laugh it off and I liked the fire place tools a lot so I didn't make too much of a fuss but you can be damn sure that the next year I took Zanner shopping with me for their gift.
But that was because she kept score by dollars spent. In their divorce, there was only one point on which both they and the judge agreed --- neither of them had a very healthy attitude toward money. I was used to TBG's family Christmases, which featured lots of socks and warm sweaters and candy. Chanukah was books and stationary and hand knit mittens and maybe a doll or a dump truck but mostly it was judging what the relatives sent and then eating latkes. So, I had presented the brownies with pride and love and a sense that they were absolutely the perfect present for our bestest friends. I even baked them in a beautiful pan, which they got to keep.
Obviously, this was her issue and not mine. I knew that people loved my brownies and were happy to be around when I was baking them and smiled when they arrived as a care package in the mail. I knew that I loved making them and gifting them and watching people eating them and once I put that all together with the fact that Christmas is all about love and sharing and memories and comfort and did I mention love ..... well, the plan just kind of created itself.
I went to the giant Ace Hardware at Clark and Broadway and Diversey and bought clear plastic containers with bright red and blue and green and white tops. I bought brand new baking pans and actually paid attention to exactly how long 4 of them in the oven took to cook perfectly. I attached big beautiful bows and gave them to my special people. And my special people understood what they were receiving.... and, of course, that was part of what made them special.
Friends moved and siblings left the parental abode and cousins married and started families of their own and we moved and old friends re-appeared and playgroup kids went off to college and suddenly I was mailing a dozen boxes... then twenty... thirty.... forty-some last year and each one a total smile.
FAMBB, my locker partner from junior high til graduation; Ilene, my skinny little younger cousin now all grown-up in her beautiful blended multi-generational home; Hans-O our then-handyman-now-policeman and always a role model for the Cuters, who'd come and shoot hoops on his way home because he'd put the damn backboard and bucket together for us and he'd earned the right to the court; MTF and Daddooooo's remaining brother and K&K&Kids who think that the holiday season begins when their box arrives .... I'll hear from them all.
How can I be sure? Because the only rule associated with assuming a position on The Brownie List is that the recipient must acknowledge receipt of the package. Now, it's possible to blow off a pre-signed by Kinko's photo Xmas card or an e-card greeting or a generic family newsletter but if I've taken the trouble to bake and wrap and ship you brownies you cannot ignore me. Not if you want to stay on The Brownie List.
Just ask the people who've wondered where their box was lurking.... yes, I do keep track of these things. Not because I'm keeping score, but because I'm bribing you with sweet treats to entice you to share a bit of yourself with me. Because I like you. And I miss you.... all year long but especially now when I want you to help me decorate the tree and eat latkes straight from the pan and take the middle brownie when it's hot right out of the oven.
Putting you on The Brownie List is the next best thing.