Friday, November 30, 2007

Nana's Fruitcake

Growing up, nothing said Christmas like Nana's Fruitcake. Now I know that fruitcake gets a bad rap, but I had no idea it was the butt of so many jokes until well into adulthood. I simply knew I loved Nana's Fruitcake and looked forward to her box of homemade goodness each December.

I still remember coming home from work one night in early December 1993, my first Christmas in DC, and being surprised by a box of Nana's Fruitcakes. That's when I knew I was an adult. She didn't send it to me when I was in college, but now that I was on my own (and over 21), she felt no guilt in sending me her bourbon-soaked fruitcakes.

I practically ran all 9 flights of stairs as I salivated in anticipation of the goodness to come. Ripping open the box, I was not disappointed. The rich smell of bourbon seeped through the layers of wax paper, saran wrap, and aluminum foil. I unwrapped a small fruitcake to have just a taste before making dinner, but the phone rang and suddenly I was sitting on the couch chatting with a girlfriend and chowing on Nana's Fruitcake. When I tried to get up to make dinner, I discovered that much to my surprise, I was drunk!

Almost 2 years ago, on a post-Christmas trip to Florida, Nana and I made fruitcakes together. Although she'd long ago sent me her recipe, it was important to me that we make fruitcake together. Knowing the fruitcakes we made that day would be the last she ever made, I have stored them in the freezer, eaten them sparingly and sharing has not been an option.

As I've begun preparing for tomorrow evening's 2nd Annual Marshall Field's Memorial Dinner & Christmas Party, I decided that in Nana's honor, I would share slices of Nana's Fruitcake with my friends. Christopher was over today to start cooking and made a snide comment about fruitcake, so I pulled Nana's Fruitcake out of the frig and carefully unwrapped it to give him a taste.

As I prepared to slice into the last of Nana's Fruitcake, my eyes started to fill with tears. The thought that when this cake was gone there would be no more was just a bit overwhelming. I cut us each a small slice, but couldn't look at Christopher the entire time I ate mine. I just knew that if I looked at him, I would start to cry and I was doing a pretty good job of keeping my composure.

I've spoken with Nana each day since Thanksgiving and each day her voice has grown weaker. The good news is that she still knows it's me on the phone and not because the nurses have told her. She knows because she says "It's my granddaughter" and then tries to say my name. When I told her I had opened the fruitcake we made together, her voice perked up and she said she wished she could taste fruitcake again. I wish she could too.

I hope it's ok, but I just can't share the last of Nana's Fruitcake.

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