I like Southern style fruitcake. Lots of nuts but no booze. I think the booze kind tries to make up for the fact that it sucks with–well, booze. And they have a lot of booze. If the candle on the dining room table drips on it, there may be an explosion. Around Christmas there are always these awful house fires blamed on faulty Christmas lighting or unattended candles. I believe it’s fruitcake in at least 15 percent of the cases. There may be spontaneous fruitcake combustion involved.
Here’s your helpful alcohol equivalency chart:
1.5 oz 80-proof liquor = 12 oz. beer = 5 oz. wine = any amount of fruitcake
So anyway, I like the booze-free fruitcake, but then, I like almost anything associated with Christmas. My mother, God bless her soul, loved to celebrate Christmas, and she could get anyone around her caught up in it–except my father, who was almost ironclad against any break in work, did not like frivolous spending, and didn’t even care about his own birthday much, let alone Jesus’s. He was not a mean or humorless man; that was just his way. He was a workaholic by any standard, and not just to grub money–he worked hard to keep the house nice and the cars running. I know he spent at least one long session assembling Krazy Kars for us when any sane man would have probably been drinking wassail.
But there was always some question as to how sane my parents were, at least from me, and that didn’t happen until I was a teenager and had good reason to worry about my own sanity. Then again, any teen who doesn’t question the sanity of his caretakers and himself sometimes must have faulty hormones or something.
Hormones are a problem. They get in the way. They complicate things. I vividly recall that awful feeling of wanting to enjoy Christmas as I had when I was a child, but being obsessed with sex–not just sex, but really the wider world, and all the terrors that come along with it. This was in the 1970′s and 1980′s, when the world was going to end every other Tuesday. We make a grave mistake if we think that loss of innocence is only about sex, or that sex is the only thing that makes teenagers so surly. As I’ve written before, the teen years, even in a peaceful country, are like going from a pretty cottage or a mighty castle to a filthy slum in two years. Most of us would take that as a setback and wonder what the hell happened. We would be furious. It’s a wonder all our high schools aren’t more like prisons.
My parents endured a lot from their children, and I mean a lot, but you never appreciate that until you’re older. Maybe you don’t until you have children of your own. I have not–not on purpose, but that’s another story–and yet I suppose I’m mature enough now to realize what an absolute ass I was to Mom and Dad on way too many occasions. They may have been nutty, but they didn’t deserve it.
I still loved Christmas with my parents, no matter how grouchy I might be the rest of the time. In the days before the Internet, Mom would ask me to list the books I wanted for Christmas, and she’d order them through the bookstore. Lots of fantasy and sci-fi, of course. I never knew anyone who would go further out of her way to make sure you got exactly what you wanted under the Christmas tree, no matter how old you were. She was the best.
It must have killed Dad to have to do nothing for a day, but we entertained him. If he’d expressed interest in a new tool and Santa came through, he might go try it out in the cellar. (The one time he ever hinted for gift was when he wanted a router, and when he got it he was as happy as Ralphie with his BB gun.) Usually we were off to visit relatives. He never complained anyway.
Mom and Dad were great. I miss them most of all today. See why I like fruitcake so much? I’ve always been a big fan of nuts.