December 19, 2009

The Very Old Old Fruitcake

By Paul Bieber

It was brown speckled with pieces of red and green fruit. It had been in our family for thirty five years, and must have been a lot older than that. I was sure. It was given to Elaine’s Mom in 1974, and when she closed her apartment and moved into the assisted living center, we inherited her stuff, most especially the fruit cake.

Each year Elaine’s Mom would put the fruit cake on the dining room table, but no one ever asked for a piece. We are all chicken–except for Jessie who is a vegetarian. But each year at the end of dinner, the fruit cake would go back into the red and green tin, and wait to see daylight again in 365 days.

We keep it in the attic in our house, along with the rest of Mom’s stuff. We never named it, for you don’t want a personal relationship with something that you may eat one day.

Year after year, not one of us had the courage to ask for a piece.

This year we gained a family member, Mollie, who is just about the world’s greatest dog. She is a half yellow lab and half golden retriever. She seems to have the best qualities of both dogs. She listens like she understands english, she doesn’t beg for people food, and she has never gone to the bathroom in the house. She hugs everyone who comes into the house, after thirty seconds of barking, and loves to have the top of her scratched. We limit the scratching to three hours per day, but she always asks for more.

We had our annual family holiday dinner last night. We set the table, cooked the turkey and had everything ready. Sitting in the living room, by the fireplace, we heard a strange noise from the dining room. It was a cross between a whimper and a laugh coming from Mollie. She had jumped up on a chair, and stretched out to the table. In her mouth was the very old fruitcake. As much as a dog can smile, Mollie was smiling. She had taken one large bite out of the fruit cake and it was miracle…she was still alive.

We talked about this for an hour. What to do with our tradition? What to do with Mollie when she went into convulsions? What to do next year?

We cut off the part that Mollie had started, and cut the remaining part into 14 pieces and gave everyone a taste of the fruit cake. It turned out to be pretty good, in fact it was downright great.

Mollie, old girl, thanks for showing us that we shouldn’t be afraid of regifted fruit cake, that we should try new things, and that dogs can smile.

What does this have to do with the glass industry? Not a darn thing. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year to my readers.