By Sandra J. Payne
"How's it look?" my mother asked me. I stared into the boiling pink goo bubbling up in the pan. My mom had decided that we should have an "old-fashioned" Christmas this year, and we were experimenting with making taffy for the first time in our lives.
"I think it's ready," I said. The candy thermometer read 265 degrees. My mother checked it.
"It's definitely ready," she said. "Let's pour it out."
My little sister, Janet, had a large cookie sheet buttered and ready to go. My brother Mike and his best friend, Jimmy, looked on as my mother took the hot pan off the stove and poured the pink taffy slowly onto the cookie sheet. It looked shiny and delicious.
"While we wait for that to cool, let's pull this one," my mom said, pointing to the white taffy we'd made earlier.
"Yeah!" we shouted. It was the moment we'd been waiting for. My mom cut the white taffy into two halves and gave one hunk to Mike and Jimmy, and the other hunk to Janet and me. As teams, we began pulling on opposite sides of our taffy, making long stringy lengths, folding it in half and pulling it out again. We did this over and over until our sticky taffy turned smooth and satiny. It was hot work, but no one minded on such a cold December night in Alaska. It made us feel cozy even though huge snowflakes spun past the streetlights outside.
Now that the taffy was pulled, we rolled it into one big ball. From there, we took small pieces and formed them into little taffy "snakes." When the pink taffy was cool enough, we repeated the process.
"Now," my mother said, "watch this." She picked up a length of white taffy and a length of pink taffy and twisted them together. She pinched the ends and formed a crook at the top. "It's a candy cane!" she said.
"How cool!" we said, excited to be making our own candy canes from scratch. We got busy twisting the taffy and soon had a large batch of candy canes ready. We took them out to the living room and hung them one by one on our Christmas tree. Our tree was decorated with homemade ornaments in the spirit of an old-fashioned Christmas and the freshly made candy canes added just the right touch. We took a moment to admire our handiwork and then headed back into the kitchen to clean up our mess.
After the last pan had been washed and dried and the kitchen was tidied up, we returned to the living room to enjoy our creations and relax in front of the fire. But when we entered the living room, the sight of our tree made us stop and stare in amazement.
The homemade taffy candy canes were now two and three feet long! They oozed from branch to branch like thick pink and white spider webs.
"Oh no!" my mother shrieked. "The heat from the fireplace is melting the taffy!"
Mike stifled a laugh. That did it. In an instant, we were all hysterical with laughter as we watched the blobs of taffy slowly plop onto the carpet.
The next year at Christmas, we bought candy canes from the store.