The Early Christmas Stranger
January 1, 1970Hi.
This is my first online newsletter, and I really wish I had some "news." Mostly I want to thank you for your support. Some of you have been "with me" for a long time, and I really appreciate it.
We did get some rain yesterday -- a little over an inch. This is worth mentioning because we've been in what the weather people call "exceptional drought conditions" for a long while, and we've had some unusually warm temperatures of late. But winter came back yesterday. It was cold and raw, and it had been a long time since we'd had the steady, all-day soaking kind of rain. I love rainy days, and it was so nice to hunker down with a fire in the fireplace and a cup of cinnamon coffee and listen to the rain pattering on the roof.
On the home front, the Christmas tree is decorated -- lots of bubble lights (my personal favorite) -- the shopping is mostly done and the presents are wrapped. I'm not much of a baker, though. My late sister-in-law was the one who excelled at that, especially at Christmastime. I'm going to include one of her recipes at the end of the newsletter -- "Gazie's Lemon Fruit Cake."
On the writing front, there really isn't any news. As you may or may not know, Harlequin's NEXT line has been discontinued indefinitely, and I'm waiting to hear when and where my two completed manuscripts will be scheduled. This could take a while. I'll post the information on my website as soon as I know. You can read an excerpt from one of them, The Marine, on the website.
Which brings me to the topic of this newsletter -- the person I always think of this time of year.
She was my family's slightly early Christmas Stranger. She arrived on our doorstep on Christmas Eve eve many years ago, and my mother and I can no longer remember her name. It was cold and dark. My mother was sewing my angel robe for the Christmas pageant, and my little sister was a baby. The pounding on our front door was so abrupt and urgent that I was afraid for my father to open it, and even more afraid of the young girl who ducked under his arm and rushed inside when he did. She was barefoot -- and clearly in distress.
She lived in Charlotte, she was eventually able to say, and she'd was on her way to a party her father had forbidden her to attend, something she regretted even before the party-goers had become too drunk to drive and had lost control of the car they were in and ended up in a ditch. They managed to get the car out, but they had driven off and left her in the dark. She had no money. No way home. No shoes.
My mother searched her closet to find some shoes for her -- gray suede penny loafers that were a couple of sizes too big. Getting her home was a little more difficult. We all piled into the car and took her to the bus station in nearby Salisbury. I remember how strange I felt, wearing my winter coat over my flannel, nursery-rhyme print nightgown.
I didn't get to go to town very often at night, and at that time of year it was dazzling with Christmas lights, the kind you don't see anymore. Everything was so beautiful -- a real treat despite the strange young girl in the car who was still trying not to cry.
My father bought her a bus ticket to Charlotte -- which literally took all the money he had -- and he insisted that we would wait with her and make sure she got onto the bus all right. It seemed to take forever for the bus to arrive, but eventually it came. She got on it, and that was that. We never saw her again, never heard from her. But I always think of her and wonder what happened to her and whether she ever thinks of us in return.
I'm wishing her -- and all of you -- a Happy Holiday Season.
GAZIE'S LEMON FRUIT CAKE
1 pound butter
6 eggs at room temperature
2 1/3 cups of sugar
3 ounces of pure lemon extract ("pure" is underlined twice so I'm guessing it matters)
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 pound candied cherries (red)
1/4 pound candied cherries (green)
1/4 pound candied pineapple, diced
1/4 pound white raisins
4 cups of chopped nuts
Lightly flour fruit and nuts with a couple of tablespoons of additional flour.
Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
Add lemon extract and beat well.
Mix dry ingredients together.
Beat it into creamed mix a little at a time.
Fold in candied fruit and nuts.
Pour into 10" greased and floured tube pan.
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until cake tests done.