Mitten/Michigan-shaped gingerbread cookies
Whenever someone introduces a new friend to the circle of crazy kids I usually hang out with in New York, they’re amazed at how many of us are from Michigan. There are a lot of us — and even though we all bolted out of there right after graduating college, we certainly take pride in our mitten-shaped state. Singer-songwriter Rosie Thomas, who is from Livonia, Michigan (a Detroit suburb not far from my hometown), and has done a bunch of stuff with Sufjan Stevens, is featured in a documentary called All the Way from Michigan Not Mars (which I, admittedly, haven’t seen), and there’s a record that accompanies it, which I think is also known as These Friends of Mine … I’m not really sure. Anyway, this record has become my holiday-season soundtrack this year. It’s not Christmas music (though Thomas did release a Christmas album), but she sings simple, earnest songs about winter in New York that make me want to stay inside and uh, bake more cookies. (For the record, I’ve made already seven varieties of cookies and a handful of other treats so far this season)
A couple songs, “Much Farther to Go” and “All the Way to New York City,” particularly hit home for me, though maybe a little outside the context they were written in: The chorus of “Much Farther” goes, “I have much farther to go/ Everything is new and unpredictable,” and in the latter, there’s a line about staring at the reflections in subway windows and thinking about “how much New York has changed us.” They make me think about everything that’s happened in the time since my friends and I have moved here (gradually migrating since fall 2009): Most importantly, we’ve all gotten big-kid jobs, become more confident in who we are and have learned more about what we want in life. I guess that’s to say we’ve grown up a bit? And we’ve all faced our fair share of challenges in figuring that stuff out, but it’s been so much easier knowing that we’re all here sharing those experiences together, looking back on where we started and where we came from, and making big plans for what’s next, even though we actually have no idea what that’s going to be. And I can tell you that a huge part of why I’m not afraid to set seemingly-ridiculous goals and follow through with them is because I’m surrounded by people who do the same thing; they motivate me to push myself and make things happen. That goes for all of these guys, not only the Michigan folks, but they’re where it started.
Like most people, when it comes to the holiday season, family, tradition, and being around people I love are important to me. Every year in Michigan, my dad has a holiday party he calls his Dinner for Homeless Gentiles and Wayward Jews — really just a big party — and last year I adopted it and started throwing my own in Brooklyn. I did it partially to keep up the tradition and carry on my dad’s legacy, and of course also because it’s an excuse to throw a party and get people together. So, because the tradition started in Michigan, because my roots are there, and because my connection to people from my state has made such a huge impact on my life in New York, last year I bought a mitten-shaped cookie cutter and turned my gingerbread mittens into Michigans, with a tiny heart near where Detroit is. And to keep up the tradition, I made them again this year, and will probably continue to do so as long as I keep having this party. They’re not directly inspired by Rosie Thomas, but her music is a pretty perfect picture of where they (and I) came from — all the way from Michigan (not Mars).