This holiday season I have become more and more like Ebenezer Scrooge, the bah, humbug character in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” That’s not because I have become grumpier and stingier, although I admit that I do have my moments.
No, it’s because I’ve been visited by the same ghosts, or at least those kin to them, that visited Scrooge.
Yes, I said ghosts.
In the story, Scrooge was visited by his deceased partner, Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. His visitors weren’t very pleasant and they left old Scrooge feeling somewhat confused and worried.
I haven’t seen old man Marley around, but recently the Ghosts of Holidays Past, Holidays Present and Holidays Yet to Come have called on me. In contrast to Scrooge’s visitors, all of mine have been congenial and pleasant and have left me feeling hopeful.
When the Ghost of Holidays Past visited me she brought happy childhood memories of holidays celebrated with a houseful of relatives: grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There was laughter, excitement, and a table laden with holiday specialties. The desserts impressed me most.
Our family could count on certain desserts each year. Those special offerings were served only during the Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations because Easter had its own special menu.
My mother and her sisters prepared coconut cake, ambrosia, pecan pie, and red velvet cake with seven minute frosting. The red velvet cake was my Aunt Durelle’s specialty. It was three layers of deliciousness, each separated by a special, secret filling, and encased by stiff, white, seven-minute frosting. Her cake defined the festive atmosphere of the holidays.
My mother and aunts weren’t ones to shout “Happy Holidays!” But like the women of their time, they spoke their love through cooking. The generous spread of food at our table told me that we were all well loved.
The Ghost of Holidays Past reminded me of the desserts and the love at our table during happy days shared with family who are now long gone, but always remembered.
At Thanksgiving this year, I was working at a bookstore instead of sitting with my family around a table strained by its load of holiday desserts. At my lunch break, I hurried to a fast food place to catch a quick bite.
While driving to Braum’s, I reminisced about Holidays Past and my aunt’s red velvet cake. I wished I could revisit those days if only for a few moments.
I had no clue I was about to be visited by the Ghost of Holidays Present. It seems that ghosts show up when you least expect them.
While I placed my order for a burger and fries, a family entered the restaurant and stood behind me, looking at the menu displayed on the wall. Grandparents, parents, and four kids ranging in age from about 11 to 18, waited patiently to place their order. I noticed the mother was holding a covered metal cake pan.
I sat alone in my booth, eating my burger and reading the newspaper while watching that family out of the corner of my eye. After they finished their meal and cleared their table, the youngest child stood, smiling, beside his grandfather. The rest of the family gathered round and sang “Happy Birthday” to the boy.
Then the mother removed the lid from the cake pan, cut the cake and handed pieces to her family. Then she looked at me and said, “Would you like a piece of homemade red velvet cake?”
Why, yes. Yes I would like a piece of homemade red velvet cake. She didn’t know how much that slice of cake meant to me. Or maybe she did.
After she gave me my slice, the woman proceeded to give a piece of love…er, cake…to everyone there.
Recently my last visitor, the Ghost of Holidays Yet to Come showed up. She came to call on the day my small, but growing, family had gathered to celebrate our combination Thanksgiving/Christmas/Ben’s Birthday holiday.
The friendly ghost encouraged me to look around. I saw a family with a grandparent, children who had grown up and become aunts and uncles, grandchildren who were brother and sister with a little cousin on the way. I saw a table laden with lovingly prepared holiday food.
The only thing I didn’t see was a red velvet cake with seven minute frosting. But I definitely see one in our future.