December has arrived, and as I stop to gaze out the window, the usual image of a leaf’s solitary descent is replaced by the golden carpet they have fashioned. As I savor the sight, a single phrase issues forth, “It’s fruitcake weather!”
This might be an odd thought for someone like myself, who does not make fruitcake and seldom eats it; but each year as November turns into December, this line from Truman Capote’s short story, A Christmas Memory, comes to mind. I suppose there is a kinship I share with the story’s two central characters, theirs born in a fictional world, mine enacted in a present reality. Our similarities involve a simple, creative domesticity that underscores preparations for the Christmas season, a season that the author says, “exhilarates the imagination.”
Of course there are differences between this fiction and my reality. My tree is garnered from its place in the attic, not the woods, and my baking is conducted in a stainless steel oven, not a black stove requiring coal and firewood. However, the excitement of creating remains the same. I, too, am joyfully planning the purchase of baking ingredients and devising what handcrafted items might be suitable for presents.
Creative gift giving, simple and often sentimental, made an impression upon me long ago. As a recipient of fudge slices and coins carefully wrapped in foil and ribbon or cellophane bags filled with fruit and nuts, I found myself genuinely touched by such heartfelt, modest offerings. So much so, that the crafting of gifts became a personal holiday tradition.
For now, it seems my holiday offerings will include Italian bread rounds wrapped in linen squares, bottles of homemade liqueur or bath salts dressed with decorative wraps, or herbs, spices, or gift cards tucked away in linen pockets. The materials for creation include pale blue wine bottles, vintage earrings, ribbon and paper scraps, all small remnants of life and living.
It is fruitcake weather, and I am delighted by its arrival. It is for me, and always has been, what Capote penned, “that which fuels the blaze of the heart.” Here’s to keeping the heart warm.