I am running another free-book promotion this month, once again for Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Same song, third verse. It seems no one wants this book. I can’t even give it away for free.
I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that there are nudists in the story. It’s true, the Cobble Twins are teenage girls who love to be naked. And in the story, they spend time at Grandma Gretel’s house walking around with no clothes on. And when they get their junior high friends to visit Gretel, eat her gingerbread cookies, and listen to her stories, they also try to convince their friends to get naked too. But, really, it is a part of the charm of those two characters. It is not a pornographic story, and they basically fail in promoting nudism among eighth graders.
But nudism has a slightly different meaning for Gretel Stein. She barely escaped the showers at Auschwitz. It is the hardest story she has to tell.
I am roundly disappointed. I have every reason to believe I am a good writer and this is a good book. But how can I get people to agree if no one is willing to read it? I have to just keep trying. The book is still free until Tuesday midnight.
Yes, this post is a shameless promotion. But this is a good book that not enough people are reading to truly appreciate that fact. When I was a boy in the 1960’s, there really was an old German lady who lived in a small tar-papered house, all ginger-brown in color, which we all called the Gingerbread House. She really did love to give out sweets and cookies and popcorn balls to the kids in our town. And she really did love to talk to people and tell them little stories.
Her name, in real life, was Marie Jacobson. She was, in fact, a survivor of the holocaust. She had a tattoo on her right forearm that I saw only one time. Our parents told us what the tattoo meant. But there were no details ever added to the story. Mrs. Jacobson doted on the local children. She regularly gave me chocolate bars just because I held the door for her after church. But she was apparently unwilling to ever talk about World War II and Germany. We were told never to press for answers. There was, however, a rumor that she lost her family in one of the camps. And I have always been the kind that fills in the details with fiction when the truth is out of reach.
I based the character of Grandma Gretel on Mrs. Jacobson. But the facts about her secret life are, of course, from my imagination, not from the truth about Mrs. Jacobson’s real life.
Marie Jacobson cooked gingerbread cookies. I know because I ate some. But she didn’t talk to fairies or use magic spells in cooking. I know because the fairies from the Hidden Kingdom in Rowan disavowed ever talking to any slow one but me. She wasn’t Jewish, since she went to our Methodist Church. She wasn’t a nudist, either. But neither were my twin cousins who the Cobble Sisters, the nude girls in the story, are fifty percent based on. A lot of details about the kids in my book come from the lives of my students in Texas. The blond nudist twins were in my class in the early eighties. And they were only part-time nudists who talked about it more than lived it.
But the story itself is not about nudists, or Nazis, or gingerbread children coming to life through magic. The story is about how telling stories can help us to allay our fears. Telling stories can help us cope with and make meaning out of the most terrible things that have happened to us in life. And it is also a way to connect with the hearts of other people and help them to see us for who we really are. And that was the whole reason for writing this book.
I have been feeling ill for three days now. Every morning I wake up feeling that I must’ve caught the Coronavirus. Head all congested, body aching, chest hurting and giving me breathing difficulty, and possibly fever…
And yet, every day, my head clears, my chest stops hurting. No fever is detected. Who knows? I have lived yet another day.
I have honestly been treating every day as if it were my last. I have been doing that for six years now. One day at a time. I have convinced myself that it is the only way to live. Careful of my fragile mortality, yet savoring the music of every single day.
Who knows if tomorrow will be another day? I will do as I must tomorrow if tomorrow is given, and I am thankful for today.
In my time living every single day as my last one, I have written a number of stories. This is one of the good ones that I cherish. It has nudists and Nazis in it. It has gingerbread men (and girls) in it who magically come to life. There are also fairies. And one old German woman with some stories to tell to children. It is built of the sweet memories and cookies and milk from my own boyhood. And it may offend some people. But everyone who will admit to me that they read it, loves it. I love it. Twitter nudists think it represents naturism well.
And the next book I write, if I can string together enough last days at 500 words a day, will be nothing like it, completely different, and maybe better.
And so, on the chance that today really is the last, here is the wisdom that I would leave behind as my legacy.
Words, if chosen wisely, have meaning. And meaning, applied to life, is a priceless treasure. But only if you give it away when you find it.
All people are worth knowing. The unpleasant ones have even more to teach you than the ones who love you. But do not fail to make time for those you love.
Live in the moment. Sing your best. Dance whenever you can. There’s no time like now. At least until tomorrow becomes now.
Hopefully this gift of wisdom is enough for now. If it isn’t, then may the next day make me wiser so that I will do better.
We have been isolated and quarantined for 12 days now, and the world around us continues to get weirder and weirder. The dog killed a squirrel in the yard two days ago. We are running out of bread and meat and potatoes thanks to hoarders, and we may need to find alternatives to toilet paper. But as long as we have love, not unlike the dog and cat in the illustration above, we will be alright.
One has to wonder, though, what they are using all that toilet paper for, those hoarders who are apparently eating it in massive quantities to give them more fiber in their diet.
Or, maybe, they know something about the virus that we don’t. Maybe it causes loose bowels and the toilet-paper-consuming condition of Montezuma’s Revenge.
Or maybe there are lots of toilet-paper mummies now roaming the nights looking for pretty girls who resemble dead Egyptian princesses?
But with the virus lurking out there, waiting to pounce on me and my weak, diabetes-ravaged immune system, there are some good things about being home-bound and fortified with solitude. For one thing, the girl who had to go see the nurse during that last substitute-teaching job I had did not turn out to have Coronavirus. In fact, it is now past the date by more than two weeks that I would’ve come down with the type of flu she did test positive for. So I don’t have that either.
Since the four of us are basically confined to our rooms for the majority of the day, it is a great time for reading in the nude. I benefit from that because I have psoriasis in places that itch less if kept dry, naked, and in front of the fan, but aren’t exactly safe for public places. And I don’t even have to offend my family with my naked self to do it. I am also pretty sure you are grateful that I didn’t use my own picture to illustrate this goofy notion.
We have done things together as a family too. Making masked visits to the grocery store or Walmart only to find there is still no toilet paper is one. Using up the gingerbread house kit that didn’t get used at Christmas is another.
And, of course, eating the gingerbread house was also something we did together. The Princess and Number Two Son both ate lion’s shares in order to save me from being weak and eating too much of it myself with my miserable diabetes. I say, “miserable diabetes” not because it is out of control and making me ill or susceptible to comas, but because I get to eat less of things like gingerbread houses, and that makes me miserable.
But the evil, moron, criminal president says that too much quarantine time will make us kill ourselves. So, he intends to end our time in isolation by Easter. We have to go out of the house, spend more money that could end up in his pockets, and get back to work to make the economy stronger so he can be re-elected on a strong economy. Even if we have to sacrifice our lives to the virus to do it. After all, what’s more important? Staying alive longer? Or helping an evil, moron, criminal president get re-elected?
The Coronavirus Isolation has put a lot of new limitations on our lives. But, I happened to have an unused Gingerbread House kit. So, for Art Day, the Princess and I decided to put it all together with supplies we already had on hand. Here, then, is the Beyer Family Gingerbread House 2020.
But, it wasn’t a total disaster. We can use our inherent craftiness to rescue it at least a little bit from total wicked-witch-housiness. Though I am sure Hansel and Gretel would still eat it.
Every Christmas break for the last four years has seen us put together a decorated gingerbread house. It was always a way to spend quality time with my kids and come up with a semi-artistical product that I could take pictures of and then eat. But this year, in addition to the gingerbread house kit purchased at Walmart, my fancy was struck by the gingerbread ninja cookie kit for sale cheaply at Aldi’s.
Because our cook-stove is gradually dying of electrical-baking-cancer, we had to move the cookie baking to my son’s apartment with a brand new oven and range. While gingerbread house kits come pre-baked and assembly-ready, gingerbread ninjas tested my limited cookie-baking skills. And believe me, though the Princess gamely tried to help, we did not bake ninjas like pros.
So, due to our negative levels of baking skill, the cookies came out looking not so much like dangerous ninjas as they did like seriously deformed mutants and bomb-blast victims. And it didn’t help that we could not make the white outliner frosting. It came in powder form and you were supposed to add powdered sugar and water to it. Powdered sugar was the one ingredient totally forgotten. Saving the beauty of artlessly-created cookies was left up to our skills applying cherry and chocolate frosting with butter knives and decorating with colored sugar beads. The cherry frosting made the cookie people into nudists rather than ninjas. And trying to make frowny faces with beads led to gingerbread men looking like they had multi-eyed spider heads instead of angry expressions. The chocolate ninjas turned out to look like forest-fire-blackened wilted Christmas trees. So, I ornamented most of them accordingly.
I had intended to end this article by interviewing one of the surviving chocolate-covered gingerbread ninjas. But when we started talking, he just got angrier and angrier about my lack of cookie-making skills. It started with insults and devolved into threats.