Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Gingersnaps for Mom December 23, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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CINNAMON, GINGER AND CLOVES scent my kitchen on the first afternoon of winter as sun streams bright through the southern window.

Christmas music plays on KTIS.

And I stand at the peninsula, rounding dough into walnut-sized balls before rolling the orbs in granulated sugar.

Each holiday season I bake gingersnaps. For my mom. They are a favorite of hers. But this year, although I am still baking the cookies, Mom won’t enjoy them.

She lives 120 miles away in a southwestern Minnesota nursing home, where she is in hospice. Her appetite is minimal. Even last year when I dropped off homemade gingersnaps around Christmas time, she didn’t eat them. Upon a return visit, I took the stale cookies back home with me and tossed them. Mom never was one to throw away food.

Now, as I shape and bake dough and pull crinkled gingersnaps from the oven, thoughts of Mom distract me. Earlier I’d forgotten to add molasses to the mix as my mind wandered away from the kitchen.

I wasn’t baking these cookies for Mom. Yet I was. I baked them to honor her, to celebrate her, to remind myself how blessed I’ve been to have such a caring, loving and kind mother. I told her that recently, thanking her in a loving goodbye letter. Phoning her is not an option. Nor is visiting due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions. I’m sort of OK with that, recognizing from an intellectual perspective the need to keep care center residents as safe as possible.

This has proven a difficult year for our seniors living in long-term care centers with too many dying from COVID. And the separation from loved ones has taken a toll. I miss Mom. But this is not about me. This is about her. That’s what I try to remember when my focus shifts, when the scent of old-fashioned gingersnaps fills the house and tears edge my eyes.


If you are feeling alone this Christmas, experiencing the recent loss of a loved one, enduring separation from those you love or struggling, you are not alone. I hope you can reach a place of peace, perhaps in the cinnamon and ginger scent of cookies or a tradition or memory that links you to the one (s) you love and miss.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Gingersnaps for Mom”

  1. valeriebollinger Says:

    I make my mom’s ginger snaps recipe too. My favorite. 😉
    Merry Christmas!

  2. I have been just reaching out to share the kindness, the hi!, my smile, the holiday greeting to anyone and everyone. We all need that connection, that care, that support, that togetherness that we will get through this and with the Holidays makes the miss even more fore front. Let’s be a little kinder behind the wheel as well as the grocery cart this time of year too. I love a good ginger snap and yours look delicious. My grandfather loved his chocolate covered cherries and the one time he would share one with me was at Christmas time. Otherwise they were his – ha! ((((((((hugsandloveandblessings everyone))))) Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂

  3. BERNADETTE Thomasy Says:

    I agree food holds a strong family connection, like your gingersnaps. This week I baked poppy seed kolaches, a treat my mother made each Christmas. She’s been gone three years but she was right beside me when I assembled the dough and the yeasty fragrance of baked rolls eventually filled the kitchen. Kolaches are a lot of work but so worth it to bring back memories.

  4. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Making those gingersnaps is a lovely tradition. I suspect your mom knows you keep it up even now. Merry Christmas.

  5. Rita Marquette Says:

    Always a sad story when our loved ones no longer can relate to life around them! Thanks for sharing!
    Another question: I wonder about the “ singing in the grain” video about Czech music in New Prague area. Is it available for purchase? My dad, Ray Valek, passed in 2018. He was totally involved in music and my mom, Mayme, was so involved in heritage. I would like to own that CD video. Can you help me?
    Rita Marquette

    • Rita, I wish I could help you. But I don’t know if a video is available for purchase. I would suggest contracting the Chamber of Commerce/tourism offices in either New Prague or Montgomery. Perhaps they can help you. Filmmaker Al Milgrom, who crafted this documentary, died last week.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Audrey, I’m sorry that you are missing your mom, what a sweet way to bring her to mind by making her favorite cookies. She would want you to do that and be glad you did. I could almost smell them as I read your post. We are feeling the loss this year…. our 1st Christmas without Rick’s dad and his mom unreachable in the nursing home. It’s a different year for sure but I feel blessed that our kids/grandkids along with Rick and I remain healthy.

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