Monday, December 23, 2013

Writing (About) Life--Reprising the Family Christmas Eve Eve Story...

As I've said before, on Christmas Eve Eve I always remember our family's "Almost Christmas Stranger." And, in keeping with that, once again I'm going to post an excerpt from one of my newsletters about it--a re-re-post, if you will. The memory is especially strong this year, because the weather is much the same as it was the night she suddenly appeared on our doorstep. Dreary. Off and on rain.  Such a long time ago, and I'm still wondering what happened to her.

(Oh, and the excerpt also includes my late sister-in-law's wonderful Lemon Fruit Cake recipe.)


Today -- since it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here -- I thought I'd post an excerpt from a past newsletter about a long ago, sort of Christmas Stranger incident and the person my mother and I always make a point to remember this time of year. I'm also going to re-share my late sister-in-law's recipe for lemon fruit cake. She made one every Christmas, and like all of her holiday baking, it was wonderful. (Don't let the words "fruit" and "cake" scare you.)

But first, the excerpt:

"...She was my family's slightly early Christmas Stranger. She arrived on our doorstep on Christmas Eve eve many years ago, and my mother and I can no longer remember her name. It was cold and dark. My mother was sewing my angel robe for the Christmas pageant, and my little sister was a baby. The pounding on our front door was so abrupt and urgent that I was afraid for my father to open it, and even more afraid of the young girl who ducked under his arm and rushed inside when he did. She was barefoot -- and clearly in distress. 

She lived in Charlotte, she was eventually able to say, and she was on her way to a party her father had forbidden her to attend, something she regretted even before the party-goers had become too drunk to drive and had lost control of the car they were in and ended up in a ditch. They managed to get the car out, but they had driven off and left her there in the dark.

She had no money. No way home. No shoes.
 My mother searched her closet to find some shoes for her -- gray suede penny loafers that were a couple of sizes too big. Getting her home was a little more difficult. We all piled into the car and took her to the bus station in nearby Salisbury. I remember how strange I felt, wearing my winter coat over my flannel, nursery-rhyme print nightgown. I didn't get to go to town at night very often, and at that time of year it was dazzling with Christmas lights, the kind you don't see anymore. Everything was so beautiful -- a real treat despite the strange young girl in the car who was still trying not to cry.

My father bought her a bus ticket to Charlotte -- which literally took all the money he had -- and he insisted that we would wait with her and make sure she got onto the bus all right. It seemed to take forever for the bus to arrive, but eventually it came. She got on it, and that was that. We never saw her again, never heard from her. But I always think of her this time of year and wonder what happened to her and whether she ever thinks of us in return...." 



1 pound butter

6 eggs at room temperature

2 and 1/3 cups of sugar

3 ounces of pure lemon extract ("pure" is underlined twice so I'm guessing it matters)

4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 and 1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

1/2 pound candied cherries (red)
1/4 pound candied cherries (green)
1/4 pound candied pineapple, diced
1/4 pound white raisins

4 cups of chopped nuts

Lightly flour fruit and nuts with a couple of tablespoons of additional flour.

Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar.

Add eggs one at a time and beat well.

Add lemon extract and beat well.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Beat it into creamed mix a little at a time.

Fold in candied fruit and nuts.

Pour into 10" greased and floured tube pan.

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours or until cake tests done.

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