Courtesy of my workplace, I came home today after a long, draining week bearing a glass jar of merry Christmas benevolence. Some assembly required.
Same as they tried last December with success, our company organized a special Friday afternoon event in which all employees had the chance to assemble their own batch of cookie mix as a holiday gift. Tables were set up in a meeting room where we each had to stop at a series of stations and add the necessary ingredients to the jars they gave us using the utensils provided inside large plastic tubs of flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda. Beyond those mandatory stops, we also had our filling choices of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, M&M fragments, and/or tiny peppermint shards, to be added in whatever proportions suited our respective fancies to fill any empty space remaining in our jar. (I skipped the peppermint. I’m not keen on baked goods that taste medicinal.) At the end of the line we received cards with the necessary instructions to finish the job at home on our own. Add perishables, bake, gobble, sigh, and cherish this momentary bright spot in our 2016.
The rest of the process sounds simple, and yet one can imagine endless opportunities for failure if one lacks confidence or finds themselves sufficiently paranoid. What if I drop the jar on the way home? What if I’m out of the other ingredients at home? What if I leave the cookies in the oven too long? What if I packed too much flour in the jar and the cookies taste like foam furniture stuffing? What if I bake them, eat them all, make myself sick, and miss days of work? If they taste terrible, do I have to feel guilty if I throw them out and buy a package of Chips Ahoy instead? Can I give them to a charity, or will they sue me if I accidentally underbake them and make someone else sick? What if the pilot light is out on my stove and it’s too hard for me to light and the gas odor frightens the neighbors into calling the authorities? What if the smell of hot, fresh cookies attracts creepy vermin? Or home invaders, or hobos, or pesky neighbor kids, or codependent relatives? What if I procrastinate too long and our economy and/or country collapses before I get around to baking them?
I know of at least one employee last year who opted out of the free cookie mix because they found the effort too much of a challenge along one of the lines of thought listed above. Maybe it’s hard to imagine if you’re a natural born baker, but some people don’t take well to DIY projects, even those handed to them already half-finished. Our bosses could’ve simply paid a caterer to bring in trays of fully formed cookies (as they’ve done for quarterly results meetings in the past) and left it at that. There’s nothing wrong with handing out free cookies (as if anyone needed me to type that), but meeting us halfway and kick-starting our holiday baking adds a new level of meaning to our gift. They gave us the parts and the guidance, but it’s up to us to take creative control from that point onward. If we nail all the steps and don’t screw up somewhere, our diligence, patience, and hands-on involvement will pay off in a confidence boost and a sense of accomplishment, nice feelings to have any time of the year, even in the most minor of tasks.
I have no idea when I’ll have time to foster this cookie mix through the crucial transition between being and becoming, because our next several days will be packed with work, Christmas shopping wrap-up, possibly movies, and visiting family, including my son coming down from college for the next several days. Once we clear out some time to ourselves once again, I’m getting down to business with this mix. Until that happens, I’ll have to settle for delayed gratification and the eager anticipation of a job soon to be well done if the plan comes together. Also, cookies.