My 14-year old daughter Mercy is very crafty and an inspiring artist. This year, she begged me to make gingerbread houses using real gingerbread. "Mom, please can we do them?" She asked while jumping up and down. "I even promise to help clean up any messes." I've made gingerbread houses many times with neighborhood kids, my own kids, and art students when I was a teacher. I know how much work goes into doing it with just graham crackers as the house structure, no less adding real gingerbread baking.
But... it has been hard year due to the pandemic. Normal events have been put on hold. No group Christmas festivities or Christmas parties. No shopping in malls or Christmas parades. This would be something that she would remember. Mercy enlists the support of her younger sister and both of them begin the “please…mom…” song. I roll my eyes and sigh. I know the effort this will take, but am willing to live with the repercussions. Or so I thought.
I go to the store and get molasses, ginger, dark brown sugar, and tons of candy. I pick up the girls from school and they are giddy with anticipation. “Can we start as soon as we get home?” They ask. I nod and say, “We will make the bread and while it rises you can finish your homework.” All goes to plan. Bread rises, kids roll out the dough, and then cut out the houses. They even make little gingerbread people to inhabit them. I bake the gingerbread and call it an evening. Tomorrow the decorating will begin.
The next day, the same excitement fills Mercy’s face. She is wearing an elf hat and ready to dig into decorating her Christmas gingerbread house and of course, eating lots of candy. Crafts are really her specialty and she wants to make the best gingerbread house. I’m helping her younger sister with hers and Mercy is determined to beat us. She wants utter gingerbread perfection. “Now, this is not a competition. This is just for fun.” I try to remind her. She replies with a, “I know mom.” But I can see the intensity in her face. She is determined to win. After a few hours, me and my youngest are done. We are happy with our vanilla wafer rafters and peppermint windows. Mercy is still working and continues for a few more hours after dinner. The results are a blue and pink marvel of swirling patterns on the roof using decorating tools and food coloring. I am impressed. It looks really nice.
In the morning, I see a small blue food coloring stain on the floor. I tell her to clean up her mess. She says, “That’s where the blue food coloring container went to. I couldn’t find the bottle last night.” I look over at our tiny Pomeranian puppy. Yes, she had a blue tongue. “Mercy, you have to be more careful with dye.” She nods and I say, “Come on, we need to get to school.”
I put on my jacket and start up the car. I decided to drive my husband’s new car as he is out of town and it has heated seats. I sit down and turn on the car and go outside to clear the windshield's frost. When I go to get back into the car, I stop and stare. I see bright blue dye all over his beige leather expensive brand new car seat.
I just stop. My heart stops. My mouth drops open. I start gasping for breath. “What, what what happened?!” I cry. I don’t usually get upset. I am an art teacher and a painter. Things like spills and messes are a part of my life. Most of my clothes have a dab of paint on them. I worked as a high school art teacher. I have seen some major paint disasters.
But this time, I am petrified with anxiety. You must understand, Mercy has a history with car destruction, specifically in my husband’s cars. When she was 7, she decided to help get some mud off of her dad’s car by scraping it off with the end of a stick. Long jagged scratch marks were on both doors of the car and up and down the sides. When she was 9, she twisted herself completely upside down in a seat belt and started suffocating herself. We couldn’t get it loose. She was screaming. I had to cut the seat belt off of her. Don’t even mention the soda can explosion across the roof of his car when she left it in the back seat on a hot day.
I couldn’t let this happen again. He would think I didn’t love him enough to protect his stuff. I was mortified with dread. I looked down at myself. How could the blue dye be in my seat! I ripped off my coat and looked at it. My coat had a large blue dye stain on the back. My pants were also now blue and so were my hands.
I ran inside and got white rags and Eraser pads and ran back out to the car. I started wiping up the seat. My heart started beating again. I started breathing again. The leather wiped off completely as the dye was still fresh and wet. But, Mercy was going to need some mercy from God because I didn’t have any right now. I won’t mention the words that were shared between us. I am sure you can imagine them.
I went back inside a bit calmer. I tried to figure out what had happened. I looked at all the kitchen chairs. No stains. So, what had happened? I looked again at my coat and where it was this morning. Apparently, our Pomeranian puppy had found the blue dye from Mercy’s gingerbread house after it had rolled onto the floor. She took it over to my coat that was draped across the chair. She decided that the coat looked comfortable and chewed the container on top of it. I put on the dark colored jacket not seeing the blue stain. And that is how my jacket, pants, hands, and my husband’s new car became part of the gingerbread apocalypse.