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When our son and daughter opened the Christmas package that held their new electronic keyboard back in December 1989, there was an instructional video neatly encased within the several layers of bubble wrap.

Soon after the keyboard was assembled, we played the video. A jolly man explained all the piano’s features and at the end of the lengthy demonstration he said, “Now you’re cooking!” For ever after, whenever one or the other of us was well on our way to accomplishing a goal, we’d repeat the phrase and chuckle at the remembrance of that man assuring us that all would be well.

Little did we know that we would only have five more Christmases as a family unit of four. Our daughter died and Christmas was never the same happy time it had once been. At first it was a very difficult holiday. I experienced pain that cut like a knife, but as the years went by, Christmas day became less difficult to bear. Our son eventually married and had a daughter thus bringing two beautiful daughters (a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter) into our family fold. There’s nothing as good as a grandchild to cheer up the holidays. However, I have found something that’s second best. Cooking.

Let me do a little back-tracking to explain this discovery. This year I started to get sad and yes, feeling sorry for myself, when my son told me that his little family would be staying at home in Texas this year for Christmas. They would be coming to visit on New Year’s Eve day and stay for a week, however. I said that was fine, but deep down I knew it would be the first Christmas day without any children since my husband and I were newly married 41 years ago. I moped about the house until I decided to “get cooking.” Literally.

I got out the recipe books and took off on a whirlwind of making soups, casseroles, cookies and fudge. I was so busy cooking I didn’t have time to get lonely or anxious or moody. It was all I could do to put the final icing on the Christmas cookie cut-outs before going to two Christmas Eve parties and the ten o’clock Christmas Eve service at church. On Christmas morning, my husband and I slept in—I felt decadent—and then I rushed to make the stuffed eggs for my mother’s Christmas day party. I hardly had time to catch my breath.

Now I’m busy making a menu for the New Year’s day party we will have to celebrate the arrival of the Texas contingent.  I will make my own sweet potato biscuits for the sliced ham, make Tex/Mex dip, make more cookies and fudge and stuffed eggs and create a beautiful fruit bowl. Costco will have to step in and help after I make all of the above, because I’ll be playing with my grandchild by then.

I can hear my daughter saying, “Now you’re cooking!”