Real men can build gingerbread houses

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 04:59 AM

In retrospect, it is wise to have some expertise in constructing gingerbread houses before volunteering to teach others how to do so. But this hindsight was doing me exactly no good right now. At 10 a.m. on the dot, children began to pour through the doors of the Spindale House.

Wearing a frilly holiday apron, I handed each one a gingerbread house kit — and hoped the smile pasted on my face belied my anxiety.

It had seemed such a festive idea when it came up at the last Spindale Parks and Recreation committee meeting. Brenda Watson had hosted a similar event a year or two ago; why not do it again this year?

With visions of joyful children building cute little houses in my head, I immediately volunteered to coordinate it.

To those of you who recall a previous column where I noted my creative talents have never evolved beyond the construction paper hand turkey — yes, I know. You don’t have to say anything I wasn’t saying to myself by 10 p.m. the night before the big event.

There I sat at our kitchen table, covered in graham cracker dust. An apocalypse of gumdrops had affixed itself to every surface around me – including my hair - with the world’s hardest substance: dried Royal frosting.

Seriously, if you’re ever out of glue, just whip up a batch of this stuff. It’ll stick anything together, except for the walls and roof of my gingerbread house.

Tony walked in and eyed the collapsed structure in front of me. Why, he asked, did I wait until the last minute to do a practice run?

“Because liars on the Internet said using graham crackers instead of real gingerbread was easy!” I practically blubbered.

I could see the wheels racing in his male mind as he tried to come up with a solution.

“Do we have any marshmallows?”

“Yes. Why?” I asked suspiciously.

“We’ll use them for braces. Then we’ll carve tiny notches in the walls to fit them into the gable roofs, and we’ll…”

Lord have mercy. This thing wouldn’t be ready by next Christmas, much less the next day.

Tony took a closer look at my gable roof.

“You’ve cut it the wrong size,” he announced.

Then he dropped into a chair and cut out a new one, presenting me with a fully assembled gingerbread house in a matter of minutes. Overwhelmed with gratitude, I offered to decorate it.

Tony looked protectively at the house. “That’s ok,” he responded.

With 30 individual kits still needing to be properly cut out, I opted not to be offended.

Brenda Watson — that rare hybrid of visionary architect and hardworking bricklayer — was waiting for us at the Spindale House to give an extra hand. So was Amy Revis’s daughter Lauren. Along with Tony, they provided the necessary competence to help everyone walk out the door with a gingerbread house.

Meanwhile, I did what I do best: I observed people. And I started to pick up on some interesting dynamics when it comes to gingerbread house making.

The moms were all gentle patience and encouragement, content with letting their children do as much of the building as possible.

The dads, on the other hand, stalked straight over to the table, frowned at the supplies in studied concentration, and then got down to work like they were constructing a soap box derby car.

I also noticed that the girls tended to make elaborate use of the candy, while the boys were more drawn to creating “blizzards” around their houses out of entire bags of powdered sugar.

In short, the event turned out just fine — although I’ve concluded when someone like me is at the helm, it takes a village to make gingerbread houses.

This starts with the generous donations of graham crackers and candy from Food Lion, enough supplies for every child that showed up. (Side note: I’d like to thank Food Lion’s manager for helping me finally overcome a phobia of asking people for things, which I’ve had ever since I was a Girl Scout selling cookies and summoned up my courage to knock on the door of the town’s biggest mansion. A man wearing a smoking jacket – I kid you not – opened the door with a flat NO. )

Tony, of course, was my lifesaver, along with Brenda and Lauren. And I suppose now’s as good a time as any to break it to him that Brenda and I are already talking about holding a Valentine card-making event at the Spindale House.

When he walks in on me the night before buried in sparkly sequins and paper doilies, I know he’ll be man enough to rise to the occasion.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email