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Because of my problems with sun and heat, I love fall and winter in El Paso when I can get out and explore the city again.

Not too long ago, I finally ventured to a local mall and as I was coming up the escalator I got a whiff of gingerbread. Couldn't be, I thought; there aren't any bakeries in this area. But, in an out-of-the-way corner of the upper level, there was a glassed in kiosk with all kinds of gingerbread, from tiny gingerbread men to wonderful whimsical houses.

The proprietor smiled as I approached, my nose in the air like a bird dog.

"Hi," he said. "From your shining eyes I take it you are smelling my gingerbread."

"Oh, yes," I nodded. "So nice to meet you. My name is Wanna and I must say this all reminds me of childhood."

"Yes, I seem to have that effect on people," he said, smiling.

"My grandmother baked ginger cookies and my mother used to bake gingerbread. I loved coming home from school to be greeted by that heavenly smell at the front door. And, of course, I have baked gingerbread myself over the years. Come to think of it, I tend to bake it more in the winter, usually. "

"Well," he said, gesturing expansively, "If it's gingerbread you want today, I've got it."

He removed a small decorated gingerbread man cake from his display case and placed it on a paper plate. "Here," he said, smiling. "Try a bite. You don't need a fork. Just pinch."

"Wonderful!" I cried as I took my first bite.

He set the plate on the tiny sales counter. "When you get ready to go, I'll wrap it for you. In the meantime, just enjoy it while you look around."

I looked at his interesting little stall. "I don't remember seeing you here before," I said, taking another pinch of his delicious treat.

"Well, believe it or not," he said, "I travel all around the country. I may be here tomorrow, and I may not. You know: Run, run, as fast as you can; you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man."

"Oh, you really take me back to childhood," I said, "When I learned to read, one of the first stories I liked was about a Gingerbread Man, who was always saying, "Run, run, as fast as you can ..."

"Is that right." he said. "Small world, isn't it?"

"You really have a neat display. Do I have your permission to take pictures?" I asked. "I would love to be able to share them with my husband and some of my friends who make miniature gingerbread houses from clay and cardboard and such."

"Why, of course. Half the fun of doing something like this is sharing with others. Why don't you take a few minutes and look around," he said, opening the door to his little glass gazebo.

I began with the top shelf. What a variety!

Everything from a remarkable wreath ...

... to a gingerbread house teapot ...

... to gingerbread angels.

The second row included a rocking horse and a gingerbread woman. And look at all the varieties of roofs!

"Wow," I said. "Not just one choo-choo, but two! And two churches, and two different types of trees. Cool!"

And of course, someone needs a sleigh!

"Wow! I really like that glittery one on the second shelf."

"You'd never guess who made the prototype for that house."

"No, I couldn't. Who?"

"A former White House chef!"

"No!" I said. "Really?"

"Yup. He's retired now; it was just too stressful trying to get that Gingerbread White House made every year in time for Christmas. He started working on it months beforehand, and became such a nervous wreck, worrying that the workmen would knock it over as they wheeled it in that he got a terrible case of hives. Put him in the hospital and the doctor said he needed a less stressful occupation."

"Is that right! How interesting," I said. "What is he doing now?"

"Oh, he's in a nice retirement home; gets reduced rent for doing all their desserts. He made the initial version of this house for me right after he got the job. He started taking cha-cha lessons from a retired professional dancer and has not had a single case of the hives since he quit the White House. Happy as can be, last I heard. "

"Aw, heck," I said, leaning to look closely. "What a thrill to realize the first one was made by someone that important." I looked around, sniffing.

"I could swear I smell gingerbread baking right this minute, but you don't seem to have room for an oven anywhere."

He smiled again. "Oh, I have my ways."

Well, naturally I had to purchase gingerbread to take home for my husband and myself. As the proprietor reached for a bag on a rack, I said, "I like your little logo, there," I said. "Those bags look so cute, you could practically eat them."

He laughed again, the bowl in his arms shaking. "Oh, yes; some people have even said he looks a bit like me."

"Hmm," I murmured. "Well, there is a bit of a resemblance, all right, although I don't think your cheeks are quite so rosy, " and I laughed, too.

As he put my purchases in the bag, including my free piece, I noticed a sign for a raffle next to a glass fish bowl.

"Oh, great! I love it when I see "wanna" used like that, and I would love to win one of those houses!"

He handed me a pen and a small piece of paper. "Sign up. You might be the lucky one. Be sure you put your email, too. Gotta keep up with technology, you know. "

I wrote my name, address, phone number and email on the paper, folded it in half, and stuck it into the bowl. "Crossing my fingers," I said.

"I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed meeting you and sampling your wonderful wares. I could never have believed when I was a child that I would actually talk to The Gingerbread Man."

"You are my last customer," he said, locking the doors to his little glass kiosk. "I'll walk with you to the escalator, and then I need to get out of here with this bowl before the owner of The Wonderful Wok a few doors down comes after me. He has a weakness for cherry filling and whipped cream and he thinks he's going to catch me with this bowl. He better run, run, as fast as he can ... "

He laughed heartily, his body shaking so much that his large white button popped off. He picked it up, took a blob of frosting from the large pot in his arms and stuck it back on.

He smiled. "Frosting is good for more than covering a cake, isn't it? Well, Wanna," he saluted. "It has been a pleasure. See you again one day, perhaps."

And as I began moving down the escalator he was hurrying off down the mall, and I swear I heard him hollering, "Run, run, as fast as you can ..."

At home that night as we had coffee and gingerbread, I told Robert about my visit to the gingerbread man's kiosk and showed him my pictures. He looked over my shoulder and pointed to one. "Look! He doesn't have a mouth."

"What?" I asked.

"He doesn't have a MOUTH! How could he talk to you if he doesn't have a mouth?"

"Well, good grief. What a thing to ask. Of course, he talked to me so he must've .... You are always so picky about everything." He just shrugged and walked off, shaking his head.

Although now that I think about it, it does make you wonder, doesn't it? And oh yes, I'm sure hoping I get a call that I won one of those houses!

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NOTES:

I have become enamored with plastic divider boxes to organize my smaller accessories and quarter scale items, and have ordered quite a few in recent months. As I was removing food and holiday items from a shoebox and various drawers to place into the little cubbies I noticed I had a lot of gingerbread pieces, far more than I had realized.

This is the first house I ever made, back in the eighties.

I think I spent more time making the roof pastels than the entire rest of the house! I made other houses in workshops over the years. A few were gifts, others were purchases. Some of the smallest pieces were mini Christmas ornaments.

As I examined each one, my eye fell on a glass and brass mirrored case that my daughter Dana had purchased for me at an estate sale, and I went, Aha, and decided to display them all together.

Then I remembered a large Gingerbread Man resin tree ornament that I had picked up once a few years ago, and had even begun a story with him but left it unfinished. But could I find him at that time? No, so I just placed the filled case first on a table in the living room, and later moved it to the shelf of a china cabinet in the kitchen.

And it was only in mid-February as I was putting away items used to create my Vintage Valentines and Sweet Treats shop project that I came across the Gingerbread Man figure again, and then the rest of my story came - the kiosk would be another shop and he would be its proprietor! I love it when things come together like that!

I removed the hanging screw and ribbon. He is quite heavy, so I needed some way to have him stand, and I did not want a separate base.

Then I remembered my doll stands. And aha, the shorter one worked fine, but that white looked too obvious.

I gave it a coat of flat black paint, and glued him in place when it dried. Works fine and is unobtrusive.

Unfortunately, as I began taking pictures with my Gingerbread Man standing next to his glass kiosk, I learned the hard way that I should have taken pictures of each item BEFORE gluing them all in place, because it is almost impossible to get decent pictures with all that glass, brass and mirror reflecting every which way, including images of me and my camera. I tried different angles, but ... darn it; what was I thinking?

I had a second identical box from my wonderful daughter so I cleaned it carefully, then got out my trusty exacto knife and carefully pried each piece loose a row at a time from the original box. Then I photographed the pieces on an angled piece of cardstock, then put them on the corresponding shelf in the original design order in the second box. However, I didn't take time to glue them in place because I wanted to see how the new pictures turned out. When I got ready to upload them, I got all confused with the Photos part of Windows 10 and seemingly imported over 1,000 recent "new" pictures from all over my pc folders. I left everything and took a long, long nap in my chair with the throw pulled defensively up to my chin.

Well, all's well that ends well, and I can call this project done, but good grief. This was supposed to be an easy ufo to finish.  

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