Every crumb of a Christmas fruit cake made with love
Mom makes the best fruit cake at Christmas. I know because it’s one of those deals where the complicated recipe is written in ancient hieroglyphics that only she can decode. I enlisted a team of Navy SEALS a few years ago to swipe it out of the lock-and-key cabinet where she keeps other classified secrets for things that makes one’s mouth water.
This fruit cake is something to behold. You’d need a crane from Caterpillar just to lift the thing. I don’t know how many pounds of cherries, nuts, and green and gold pineapple bits are in it, but it’s more than enough. Through the years she’s baked jam cakes, pineapple-upside-down cakes, orange cakes, coconut cakes and chocolate cakes, not to mention her homemade fudge (dark and white chocolate) and pecan pies for our family gathering every Christmas Eve night. I’ve seen them all – cakes, pies, fudge – come and go, but that fruit cake keeps showing up.
I’ve been eating this fruit cake for at least 45 years. Mom will only say she got the recipe from a friend when “I was little.” It is the first thing I usually inquire about as soon as Bernadette and I arrive – usually on Dec. 23. I tease Mom about how I can take one bite and know if she has does something wrong, like leaving out an ingredient. I’m not sure, but I think she bakes the thing for two days at a low oven temperature like 150 degrees or something weird like that. All that said, I bet I can count on one hand over the past four decades the number of times she’s gotten something slightly wrong with her fruit cake. One year she confessed to messing it up. It was one of those traumatic experiences I’d just as soon forget.
I also have no doubt Mom has made every crumb of that fruit cake for all these years with love and joy. Psalms 113:9 says God makes a woman “to be a joyful mother of children.” With all the uncertainty in this troubled world, the one constant that has existed throughout my life is the absolute certainty of my Mom’s love for my younger brother, Jeff, my “baby” sister, Leann, and me. I know we’re not the only ones to be blessed in such a special way. Perhaps this column will cause you to pause and think of your mom and something special she’s done for you every Christmas. Moms are like that, yes they really are.
It was not easy for any of us when I left home for the Air Force. She told me a few years ago that she joined my late dad and Leann in crying over every inch of the 30-mile drive home after they left me at the Armed Forces Induction Center in Nashville, Tenn., on Nov. 7, 1977. I think she knew I would never come home – to stay – again. The fact that she has accepted that demonstrates that she puts my feelings above her own.
Mom has always been a woman of prayer. She has kept me in her prayers low these many years. It reminds me how Hannah, in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 prayed for her son, Samuel.
Like Hannah, Mom has strived to raise her children in a way that honors God. She did so in often simple ways, but most importantly by example. Mom has always had a beautiful soprano voice and as a child I can remember her singing the great hymns of the church as she cleaned house or prepared supper. What a powerful testimony that was to me. She knew I was listening even though I was busy scattering baseball cards all over my bedroom floor for review.
A couple of years ago Mom decided to give me the Bible she had used for more than 40 years. In the front it says it was given to her by Dad on Christmas Eve 1965. What struck me about her Bible, tattered and pages worn, is the number of verses Mom had underlined that contains the word “love.” I can testify to the fact that throughout her life, she has loved as Christ commanded. I know because perhaps more than anyone other than her savior, Jesus Christ, and my late Dad – whom Mom was blissfully married to for 38 years – I have been the biggest beneficiary of her love.
I am so thankful to God that he allowed Dad to make enough money so Mom could be a “stay-at-home mom.” As a child I cannot tell you how much I learned from her (like how to push a vacuum cleaner, dust, wash dishes and make cornbread). I also felt secure during those early years of my development when Mom and I were the only ones home during the day. They remain some of my fondest memories.
Call me a momma’s boy if you like. I am, but not in the way you might expect. I don’t hang all over Mom when I’m around her. In fact she would probably tell you how fiercely independent I am. After all, she knows me better than anybody and she’s always been ready to help whenever I’ve needed it.
What I need from her more than anything this Christmas is that fruit cake. I bet she has it ready when Bernadette and I walk in the door Dec. 23. When everyone arrives Christmas Eve night, just to be silly, I’ll strut around the house like a rooster in the barnyard and proclaim that she’s baked it just for me. She’ll giggle and deny it, but I know otherwise.