Sweets for the Sweet

Sweets for the Sweet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Sweets for the Sweet

Every year, between Thanksgiving and December 26, something mystical happens to me. The festive foods of Thanksgiving dinner start the process. Then Christmas music, piped from radio and DIRECTTV for an entire month, trips my alarm to shrill. Recipe ideas, over a half-century of them, cork to the surface like soda fizz.

Each chorus of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” transports me deeper and deeper into a rhapsodic trance that has my husband, Lee, shaking his head, mumbling and slanting me knowing looks.

“What?” I snap, stirring candy.

“You’re doing it again.” He saunters past, sniffing the chocolate mixture.

“Why do you want to spoil Christmas for me?” I glare at his back. He just doesn’t get it.

“I hate to see you work yourself to death,” he says, munching spoils from my fudge heap.

“Hey, I love working myself to death.”

At the same time, something deep inside concedes that I do actually go a little mad. I can’t rest until I whip up thirty pounds of walnut fudge, fifteen pounds of Mounds candy, five gallons of Rice Krispies/Snickers balls (so the grandkids can, once a year, eat to their hearts’ content), ten dozen peanut-butter balls, twenty pounds of butterscotch fudge, and—although I swear each year I’ll not do them again—I cannot resist making several batches of yummy chocolate-toffee bars.

“But why so much?” Lee snatches a couple of toffee bars and crams his mouth full. I roll my eyes at his duplicity.

“Tradition,” I say.

And, dear Lord, on one level, it is. But, I ask myself, does tradition alone justify my annual cooking frenzy? I’ve done it since I was a teen practicing home ec class recipes. During ensuing years, I involved the children in the fun, building happy memories, packaging gifts of food for friends and family.

Now, with the kids raised, the activity has become, at times, tiresome. Yet the urge persists. Mystified, I wonder, What is the core of this crazy compulsion?

Later, I browse through some old family photos.

“Look, here’s my Two-Mama,” I tell Lee. “Remember how, after we married, we used to visit during Christmas? As far back as I can remember, she always had goodies of every description to feed us. I loved the way she would always . . .”

Tears spring to my eyes. I miss her. She and PaPa have been gone for many years. I remind Lee how my grandparents’ fragrant house welcomed and cheered me during childhood holidays, how their table sprouted delectable treats and how she always had plenty. Two-Mama made sure her loved ones never left her home hungry, even loading us down with carry-home bags.

That’s it!

My Yuletide frenzy evokes memories of Two-Mama’s gift to me. That’s what motivates me! I never felt more loved than there, in her home, knowing in my child’s mind that she’d prepared all this in honor of me. She celebrated me with all those goodies. That was her way of loving.

I smile at Lee. “I guess now it’s my turn to celebrate my loved ones. It’s my way of loving them.” He squeezes my hand in understanding.

So, five weeks later, here I am: ten pounds heavier, crash-landed back to sanity. I’m also exhausted.

“Y’know,” I admit to Lee, propping my swollen feet on the coffee table, “I’m getting older. I believe next year I’ll skip the candy-making thing.”

“That’s a good idea, hon.” He winks at me.

This time, I vow I’ll remain staunch. Immovable. At least until Thanksgiving rolls around, and I hear those first strains, “I’ll be ho-o-me for Christ-maaaas . . .”

Emily Sue Harvey

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