An aunt of my ex-husband's looked me up on facebook through the kids. She's a fiercely independent woman. Don't get me wrong, I am too, but she's a lot sharper and angrier than I have a tolerance for. I accepted the friend request, but really didn't hear much from her until things got politically ugly on facebook. We are of a like mind on that subject anyway, so I suppose that kindled some warm feelings in her heart. We communicated back and forth a bit on facebook.
Now that the holiday season is approaching, one of my big regrets is that somehow in the tumult that was the crashing and burning of a marriage, a cross country move, the struggle to reset life for me and three children, I managed to lose something near and dear to my heart: Grandma Violet's fruitcake recipe.
Before you say how much you hate fruitcake, let me say that you haven't tasted Grandma Violet's fruitcake. Seriously: Best. Fruitcake. Ever.
Every year, I pulled her recipe out of the box, unfolded it and set to work. I made fruitcakes and we gave those fruitcakes as gifts and everyone loved those fruitcakes, even if they thought they wouldn't.
Anyways, fast forward, through a divorce and even though I vowed 'never again', it did happen again. Remarried to a quiet man, life settled down once more. For our first Christmas, I got my recipe box out and pulled out Grandma Violet's fruitcake recipe. I was sad to discover that somehow, I only had the first page of it. The rest of it was gone. I went through everything. I didn't have it.
I grieved the loss of that recipe.
By then dear Grandma Violet was in the throes of dementia. I wrote her regularly just as I always had since I married her grandson, but it became an issue when my ex remarried. When she heard that he and his wife were coming to visit, she got very excited. She couldn't wait for that visit. Except that when they walked in, she got very upset. "Where's Debby? They said that Debby was coming..." and she didn't stop looking for me for their whole visit.
At this point, she was living with her daughter (that fiercely independent aunt) and the aunt was mortified at her mother's behavior. It also distressed the new wife a great deal. I thought they were all being a little silly, because after all, it was dementia. It was not like the poor thing could help it, but I took a deep breath and I stepped back. I stopped writing. It was simply adding to her confusion.
She's gone now. She's been gone for many years, but I can tell you that she was a dear, dear woman. I loved her.
At the factory where I worked, Christmas season was our peak season and we worked mandatory overtime in the weeks before Christmas. Lots and lots of overtime. This year I am not working, and for the first time in many years, I have the time to devote to Christmas baking and Christmas cards and to Christmas decorating, and to Christmas wrapping...all of that Christmas stuff. I am greatly looking forward to it, and all these years later, once again that long lost fruitcake recipe popped into my mind.
So I messaged that aunt that I was now in contact with, and asked if she happened to have that recipe.
"Absolutely NOT!" and what followed was a bitter recounting of being forced to eat foods that she didn't like, and how she hated that fruitcake.
I typed back carefully, "I'm sorry to stir up bad memories."
Another blast about how she would never subject her grandchildren to the torment she was subjected to.
It's hard to have such very different memories of a person, but there you are. I had a rough childhood myself, so I respect that what people see from the outside doesn't always reflect the reality of what happens behind closed doors. I sort of reiterated my earlier comments and dropped the subject all together, figuring that the fruitcake was just a memory.
I have that one page still, neatly folded and still in my recipe box because it is in Grandma Violet's handwriting.
Last night when my daughter was here, her father called to wish her and Don and William a happy Thanksgiving. From where I was washing dishes, I said, "Hey, ask him if, by chance, he happens to have Grandma Violet's fruitcake recipe..."
And the reply came: he used to, but it wasn't the complete recipe. Part of it was missing...
I could've cried.