Sunday, December 18, 2005

Meme: Weekend Assignment #90

Weekend Assignment #90: Holiday Memories

John Scalzi urges us all to put our thinking caps on and turn up the “Way Back Machine”

“In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it's good to take a moment to remember that this time of year is full of wonderful memories. And that brings us to this week's Weekened Assignment:”

Weekend Assignment #90: Share a treasured holiday memory. If it happened during the holiday season (which means, basically, from the the day after Thanksgiving to the end of the Bowl Games), it's eligible.”

“Extra credit:
Fruitcake: Ever, you know, had any?”

As you know, the idea is to write up the Weekend Assignment in your own blog or journal, and then come back here to leave a link in the comments so everyone can click through to visit your site and read your story. It's all about the links, baby! (And the varnish clogging your fuel injectors will automagically dissolve, too!)

The voice on the other end of the phone was young, very young. Definitely not “my” kids.

Merry Christmas, Chief,” s/he said. A ha!, One of my firefighters' kids, I thought to myself.

Why thank you, little one. And who might you be?” I managed to get out without slurring. I was already three sheets to the wind and hellbent on getting very, very drunk. This was my first Christmas without wife and children and I was feeling the pain and hopelessness.

Just someone who wanted you to have a Merry Christmas. Bye Now.” Click. She was gone.

I was pretty sure it was the youngest daughter of my Deputy Chief. She'd always had a thing for following me around when he brought her to the station. Sweet kid.

Twenty years later and I can still hear that little voice in my mind. I still don't know who it was that called that Christmas Eve. I still remember how sad and maudlin I got after we finished that short conversation, before I passed out. But I also remember that it short-circuited a vague plan I had of killing myself that night, after I'd taken enough 'liquid courage' aboard. Just because someone still wished me well, even if my family didn't...

Fruit cake. There's commercial “fruit cake” not worthy of the name with mystery sweet meats of candied, jellied green and blue and purple “fruit,” a handfull of raisins and more chemical preservatives than Carter's has pills in a dough made in July for the Christmas trade and wrapped in cellaphane “for freshness”. Bah, humbug.

Then there's homemade fruitcake, the solid counterpart of the ambrosia of the gods. Best I ever had was by a sweet, “Aunt Jemima” lookalike cook who worked for a friend of my father's down in Georgia. They'd hand pick pecans ever year and send us up a couple of gigantic pecan pies at Thanksgiving and a tin of pecans and another of fruitcake for Christmas. And like all good Southern Fruit Cakes, she was wrapped in a linen tea towel, and soaked in a quart of bourbon. Fine raisins, currants, dates, figs and cherries, dark, blackstrap molasses, grahm and white flour, sweet creamery butter and the finest whiskey that Tennessee had to offer, all inside of a doubled plastic bag packed in a metal tin. Weighed at least five pounds; it was brown gold. And I couldn't ever get enough of it. Now that's good eating.

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