I never cared for the taste of fruitcake, but Iíve been saving one for years.
Itís the last of those I used to get every Christmas from Elizabeth,
my friend Paulís mom. She always cooked up what seemed like hundreds
for family and friends, wrapping them in plastic, and tying them
with red and green ribbons.
Fruitcakes are known to take on lives of their own, passing from one
person to the next, sometimes lingering long enough to carbon-date.
Cut one open, if you dare, and divine its age like youíd count the
rings of some ancient tree.
Though we pretended to like them, Elizabeth never pressed us for
reports on their flavor, probably sensing that many simply became
souvenirsóif not albatrossesónot that it seemed to matter. Still,
everybody got one, delivered with a proud smile and wrapped in love,
a present from this woman who used her recipes to nourish our souls
as much as our bodies.
The tradition was passed down by Elizabethís mom, who had learned it
from her own aunt. With nobody sure how many generations back it
goes, I wouldnít be surprised to learn an early version of the
recipe, scripted on papyrus and stored in an urn, has been unearthed
during some distant archaeological dig.
Paulís father lost his hearing some years back, and got to where he
couldnít see very well. Then Elizabethís diabetes eventually put her
in a wheelchair and robbed her of sight, so Paul moved back home
that fall to help care for them.
As Christmas approached, Elizabeth kept mentioning how much she
wished she could hand out those fruitcakes again. Saddened by having
to break the tradition, she reminisced about helping Grandma when
she was a little girl. Tears welled in her eyes as she talked about
her fruitcakes, admitting that eating them isnít what matters, that
itís cooking up some love and sharing it with people who mean the
most to her.
During her nap that afternoon, Paul searched through two boxes
stuffed with hundreds of recipes filed in no particular order. He
finally found it, flour-crusted, yellow with age, and difficult to
read. He went out and bought the ingredients, then set about mixing,
determined to make her a batch to give away. Paulís not known for
his culinary finesse, and most family recipes require a dollop of
magic beyond whatís actually written down, so he finally had to wake
her, confessing his plan and asking her to help.
They spent the rest of the afternoon making fruitcakes. She took
charge, while Paul served as her eyes and hands. They didnít need
that old recipe card; Elizabeth knew this one by heart.
She glowed with pride as she handed them out, accepting kisses and
thanks, hugging back with newfound strength despite her frail
condition. Sheíd probably felt that way every year, but this marked
the first time we really noticed.
Several days after Christmas, Elizabeth required hospitalization,
but there was little that could be done, and she took a turn for the
worse. In a stark, antiseptic room far from the familiar aromas of
her kitchen, Paul lost his mother, and we all lost a friend.
Gathered at the house after the funeral, Paul and his siblings
carefully copied her fruitcake recipe, all vowing to carry on the
custom. Several of them did, tooófor a couple of years. Busy with
their own lives and still discovering their own unique ways to
celebrate, they gradually let the fruitcake tradition slip away.
Some things will never leave us, though. Elizabethís children, like
all of us she touched, will always carry on with a more important
tradition: living the way she taught. Devotion to our families,
integrity, loyalty, and love for each other . . . these are what I
see being passed on to the next generation. These are truly
Elizabethís recipe for life.
I still have that fruitcake somewhere, the one she and my friend
made together. When I look at it, I can see her face lighting up as
she presented it to me.
It is, after all, just a fruitcake. I still donít care for the
taste. And I canít say how long Iíll manage to hang on to this odd
thing, a souvenir wrapped in plastic and tied with red and green
ribbons . . .
A family recipe, the reminder of those last precious moments my
friend spent with his mom, a Christmas gift from the heart.
My vote is to have Christmas traditions all year round. You see at
Christmas time most people at least the ones I have met, always change just a
little for the better around Christmas. I do not know whether or not it is the
great yuletide Christmas carols, the festive atmosphere everywhere you go, or just some
hidden part in all of us that screams out, (I BELIEVE IN MORE THAN WHAT I SEE AROUND ME.) You see, somewhere deep down inside we all
believe in something better than we now have or see, and most of
us feel a lot better when we help someone. Whether the person is
in need or not, this feeling is what I call the feeling of
Christmas, and we all should strive to feel this way all year long.
The feeling of the Christmas holidays is truly all about family, friends and celebrating all things good.
The Lord's birthday is swiftly coming
Christmas carols we're merrily humming,
Adoration and harmony spreads worldwide
As we eagerly await the happy Yuletide.
Enhance your Christmas, with Christmas poems
and stories highlighted with your favorite Christmas carols.
Christmas traditions are fast becoming a family way of life.
Poems are a simple way of inspiring others to join in on the Christmas
traditions that love and poems bring to this Christmas holiday.
We'll be thinking of you and yours on Christmas day
So I guess there's just one more thing to say,
May God bless you, your lifetime through,
Merry Christmas and a real Happy New Year.