Baked Apples

September 5, 2008
By Erika Shinkle, Carmel, IN

The scent of baked apples filled both the air along with my nostrils. I love this time of year. My mom has begun baking for our annual pre-Christmas party. I call it a “Pre-Christmas party” because we always have all of my stepdad’s family come over the weekend before the actual day of Christmas. I make my way down to the kitchen, careful not to get in the way. The kitchen is utter chaos, per usual when my mom cooks. Various pans are sprawled out across the counters; I’ve found heaven on earth. Delicious smells of meat balls, cookies, baked apples, brownies and many more dishes float up to my nostrils as my mouth begins to water. I sneak my finger in the cookie dough sitting on the counter while my mom is preoccupied with putting the apples in the oven.
Fluffy, white flakes of snow are drifting outside. I smile as I watch the cotton ball like flakes float to the ground from my bedroom window. Snow is beautiful to watch. Not a patch of grass was visible since it had been snowing since early last night. It doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow. All of the sudden I am ripped out of my peaceful train of thought as something as frozen as the lake in my neighborhood is shoved down my sweatshirt. I’m going to kill him. I scream inside my head as I whip my head around and whirl a punch at my brother.
After I get ready for the day, guests begin to arrive. Gifts are thrust into my arms for me to put under the Christmas tree. After things settle down a bit, everyone begins to form a line to get food. MMMMM I think to myself as I grab delicious things such as, meat balls, pasta salad, chips and dip, no bake cookies, brownies, and numerous desserts that make my mouth water. As I chow down, shouts fill the room. There’s always a football game to be watched. All the men get so worked up over the football games, I find it humorous. After a while of watching football, the younger kids get antsy waiting to open presents. Therefore, we let them rip open their presents. The presents are passed out to its recipient, the older kids and adults have to wait patiently as the younger ones open theirs.
This month is particularly chaotic because my stepbrother’s, Kole, birthday is on the 17th, my birthday is on the 21st, my mom and stepdad’s anniversary is on the 22nd, then there’s Christmas on the 25th. Occasionally my stepbrother and I receive birthday and Christmas presents at our family Christmas party. Normally, the presents from my mom and stepdad remain under the tree until Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.
Private conversations between my aunts and uncles fill the air, deciding it’s time to head out. The roaring fire makes my shirt itchy and as warm as the macaroni and cheese my stepdad made. As the last few relatives say their goodbyes, I hear my dog, Libby, whimper from down in the basement. Poor thing, being locked in her cage all day. Libby’s beagle, therefore she loves to jump on people, and her tail is like a weapon when she’s excited. After I free her from her jail cell of a cage, I begin to clean up the living room. For a second, I stand perfectly still admiring the tree. It used to be family tradition for all of us to get together and set up the tree together, but somewhere along the line my brothers and I end up coming home to the tree already decorated. It’s actually quite beautiful. The silver garland sparkling from the reflection off the snow white lights, the vibrant bells, all the adorable, tiny characters, and on the top the china doll angel make the tree look stunning.
Snapping out of my day dream, I catch my dog attempting to snatch a cookie or two off the plate on the very edge of the counter. My mom thumps her on the head to get down. Three huge black trash bags and six cookies later, I finished helping my mom and stepdad spiffy up the living room and kitchen. I lug my presents upstairs to my room. My phone is vibrating furiously when I make it into my room. There’s a strict no cell phone rule when we have family-get-togethers. I snicker to myself. All my friends are aware of this rule, yet it never fails they get aggravated when I don’t answer their calls or texts. As usual, I return numerous phone calls and texts as I sort through my presents.
To unwind from my hectic day and get away from the chaotic mess the presents I received caused, I step out on my driveway to admire the snow. The crisp coldness always makes me smile right when I step outside. My cheeks and nose always become numb from the cold before I return inside. Winter is so completely beautiful in all its stillness. My favorite fuzzy boots crunch in the snow as I aimlessly walk around. The snow sparkles underneath the streetlights. My cheeks and nose are numb like my mouth when I eat IcePops in the summer. I let the bone chilling air fill my lungs one last time before heading inside. Hot cocoa is waiting for me on the island in our kitchen when I return. Sipping slowly at first, the hot cocoa brings life back into my numbed limbs. Snow begins floating to the ground when I peer out my window one last time before I drift off to sleep.

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