Christmas is almost here, in case you missed that little fact. Maybe you’re way more organized than I am and, by now, are sitting around your toasty fire (or swimming pool for my southern hemisphere friends) sipping a mocha latte. Not me. It’s more fudge making this morning, gift wrapping, house cleaning, and then fudge delivery (but I LOVE that part).
I don’t have a great deal in the way of family traditions passed down, especially from my father’s side of the family, but THE FUDGE is one thing I do have.
It was my great-grandmother’s recipe and is only handed down to the next generation when their complete discretion can be counted on. I didn’t qualify until I was in my 30’s which probably speak volumes about my character. That’s when my aunt took me aside and made me swear an oath never to reveal the secret except to my own children. It would seem it’s the original See’s recipe and I honestly cannot tell the difference between the two so I’m likely to believe it.
The fudge is requested each year with great anticipation by some of my friends and neighbors and my girlfriend’s nine-year-old son, Andrew, even requested the fudge – in a pan – for his birthday cake two years ago. I found out at the Christmas parade that he wanted it again this year but she wouldn’t let him ask me. DIANE. The child can have a pan of fudge ANYTIME he wants one! Andrew!! Don’t ask your mother! Call me directly! I’ll slip you my number later today.
And I’m back from my travels to Bakersfield to see dear, life-long friends, Jeannette and Jo Ann. We’ve known each other since I was three and those friendships are more like family……well, family you want to see. Jo Ann was here from Missoula, Montana so we had to grab the visit while we could, even amidst the Christmas rush.
Officially, I’m saying good-bye until after the New Year and will be taking some time off to have family time and maybe get a project or two done. I pray you all have a blessed experience celebrating in your own particular way and I want to thank you for all the gifts you’ve given me this year. Your sweet support and comments are gifts I can return to and they continue to bless me. I wish I could sit across from each one of you, hold your hands, look into your eyes and thank you for being my friends, walking with me through this year, and sharing your lives with me. I’ve learned so much from you.
I’d like to rerun my Christmas post from last year when I was just starting out in the blog world because it still warms my heart and I hope it does the same for you. Here it is:
A Christmas Story – But Not The One With The Leg Lamp
I don't think I can top the Bumpkiss' dogs or the fish-net leg lamp. I can identify with Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he has to suck on a bar of Lifeboy soap. I became a regular connoisseur of the latest "on-sale" bar soap when I was a kid. Lux, Lifeboy, Dial, Ivory. Apparently getting cleaned from the inside out was the way to approach child rearing. Maybe it was a chaser for the bleach I accidentally drank from a Ball canning jar several years earlier. My heart may have its stains but my intestines are clean as a whistle.
It was during this same period my Christmas story takes place. It wasn't humorous but it was definitely happy. I remembered it today when the kids and I were part of the follow-up team for handing out Christmas food and gifts collected by the company Grizzly works for. We volunteered for the privilege because who doesn't want to be part of that kind of Christmas cheer? Of course, I groused about schedule logistics (note last blog) even though I truly, truly wanted to do it. I mean really, WHAT is my DEAL?!
We drove across town to the warehouse, picked up seven boxes of groceries and a few toys, and headed to the home of a single mother with lots of children. The neighborhood was down-trodden but several neighbors stood against the blight with cheery light displays and decorations.
The home sat on a quiet corner, surrounded by a chain link fence. A chewed rope hung limply from a metal pole advertising a dog no longer tethered there. I walked up and tapped lightly, feeling slightly awkward and apologetic. The door creaked open and out peeked little shining faces, obviously excited to see strangers bearing gifts. A teenage son arrived home just in time to help unload the car and serve as translator. His mother spoke only Spanish and I spoke only English. He stared at us through dark-lashed eyes that were guarded with a mixture of suspicion and embarrassment. He couldn't have been much older than Hunter. I wondered if my son wouldn't have felt much the same. I sensed his gratitude but also felt the sting that charity might bring to a young man. He quietly complied with my request to let his mother know I had been on the receiving end of a Christmas delivery when I was child. I suppose I wanted her to realize (and him to understand even more) that I knew how it felt on both sides and it was a blessing to give back. Her shy smile showed her appreciation, and discomfort as well. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.
I wanted to share my own story with them but I couldn't invade their emotional space. He needed me to leave; she needed me to leave; and they couldn't have been more quietly gracious about it. I drove away remembering a Christmas that wouldn't have happened but for the intervention of friends and strangers.
I was ten and my sister and brother several years older. It had been a year of great upheaval. Well, come to think of it, I guess all of our years were years of great upheaval but this one came with even less money. My mother had just landed a good job but found out right before Christmas there would be no paycheck. It was a government job and the policy was to withhold the first check to be used for future severance pay.
The morning of Christmas Eve arrived but there was no sign of Christmas at our house. We had often gotten our tree on Christmas Eve because they were rock-bottom priced then. But on this day there was no discussion of a trip to the tree lot. The pantry was pretty bare and there hadn't been any talk of presents except to say there wouldn't be any. I don't remember being worried that we would eat beans for our Holiday dinner, but I do recall wondering afterwards what the menu would have been.
I think, on that day, I must have been in that beautiful place children live in their minds; the place that helps them believe everything will be alright somehow; the place where magical thinking rules and reality doesn't have a prayer. And it was in that moment that a knock came to the door. My sister and I opened it and saw our mother's friend, "Aunt" Fran. She had her husband with her and much more importantly, to our minds, the most beautiful white-flocked Christmas tree in tow. Now, our trees had been pretty much the bargain variety and we had never entertained the idea of a tree this grand. This was purview of the rich; the domain of the entitled. We were suddenly and at once part of this club of exclusivity. Aunt Fran was the prosperous owner of a nursery school that was much in demand. It was always immaculate and beautifully appointed. Each year, at the school, she prominently displayed her faith in God and her exquisite tree. It would normally have remained up through the New Year but this year she and "Uncle" Austin dismantled it and brought it to our house, along with the ornaments.
We had barely begun redecorating the tree when there was another sound at the door. Representatives of The Lions Club stood on our doorstep with arms full of boxes filled with ham, canned goods, and items far more tempting than beans. They left everything on our dining room table, wished us well and "Merry Christmas" and were gone. Here was food and here was a gorgeous tree. How could it get any better? In a matter of minutes it did. Another rapping at the door brought members of First Baptist Church bearing more food and wrapped presents. I can still see the white tissue paper and red ribbon wrapped around what I knew was a game. I couldn't wait to open it the next day. I don't know what the other gifts were that year but I was the happy recipient of "Sorry" and it's the game the kids and I still use after all these years.
Apparently, Aunt Fran had placed us on a few "needy family" lists and I'll be forever grateful that she did. It wasn't until years later I realized how close we were to having a very different Christmas experience. It was nothing short of a miracle to me and yet it lived up to my faith that all would be well. And for that time and for that day, it was. And that was enough.
I hope it will be the same for the dear family we met today. I pray a bright memory of Christmas miracles lives on in the hearts of the kiddos there and, if only for a short while, a burden is lifted for a weary mother. I hope a tentative young son feels compelled to drop his guard. I think that might be the case. I hugged his mother and then turned to him to pat his arm. He started to lean in for a hug, too, then caught himself. But it had happened, nonetheless, and in that moment, if only for a moment, I think all was well.
May you have the merriest of Christmases, my friends, and may God richly bless you.
© Copyright 2008/2009