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Last week, on the day before Valentine’s Day, my son called home from college.

“Mom, I need the fudge recipe.”

Now here was a bit of family lore that had drifted silently into dry dock, and I’m not quite sure if I can say when. Back in the day when all three kids were home and fairly small, fudge at Christmas was our special family treat. Even in the years when Christmas had to be celebrated on a shoestring, fudge was always affordable. It was our go-to gift for their friends, for their teachers at school, for their music teachers, and for anyone else who happened to cross our paths at the holiday. And it was blissfully appropriate across all religious lines as long as I remembered to buy only “Happy Holidays” tins at Walmart. (None of the kids’ friends had a problem with the ones with Santa Claus on top, either.)

Now, candy was an interesting subject at our house. I do not know if modern Southern mothers raise children who are forbidden to have candy, but I was not raised that way, and it never occurred to me to banish candy. Perhaps because it was so available, my children were never particularly interested in it. The miniature candy bars in the toes of the Christmas stockings became petrified wood by the time I remembered to throw them out at Easter. Similarly, the pastel foil wrapped chocolate eggs thoughtfully provided by the Easter Bunny languished into melt down as summer approached. And my children would politely nibble an ear off a chocolate rabbit and then wrap it up forever more. At Halloween, they counted their loot and put it away until Christmas. It is amazing that we didn’t have more ants in the house more often.

So because candy was never forbidden, it never made anyone’s heart beat faster. On the other hand, when the children who were being raised Sugarless came over, I’d find the little jars of Hershey’s kisses on the kitchen counter empty by the time they went home. Which was fine. The kisses were there to be eaten, and we probably weren’t going to eat them. And I would never inform the Sugar Police on our little visitors.

But fudge at Christmas was a different story. Maybe because fudge is creamy, gooey chocolate like none other and maybe because it appeared but once a year, every fudge crumb ever concocted on our stove was consumed.

When Michael called last week, I panicked. Where was the recipe? I had once known it by heart, and for a full ten minutes I could not even think where the written version was. Losing it would be like losing the baby teeth the Tooth Fairy had taken out from under their pillows and hidden in my jewelry box. Some parts of family lore are just too precious to lose.

“I’ll have to hunt for it and call you back,” I told him. (Southerner’s “hunt” for things; we do not “look for” them.) As soon as I got off the phone, I sat quietly and tried to think it through. I had no idea where the written version was because I had made it so many years by memory. Yet I knew it was written down. I am careful to keep important things like that written down.

I closed my eyes and thought about how ordinary things are no longer ordinary when they are woven into the fabric of a family’s life. There are the special ornaments that have to be on the Christmas tree each year. There is the Thanksgiving stuffing that must contain sausage and oysters, but no mushrooms. There is the one and only birthday cake with chocolate butter cream to paste the layers together, and vanilla butter cream on the outside. There are the Easter Bunny footprints stealthily stenciled on the front walk at midnight with flour. There was our first dog’s birthday on July 4, and now our current dogs’ birthdays on February 2 and March 3. These things and these dates and these memories are sewn together to make the quilt of our unique family story. And each is important and never to be lost or forgotten.

So where, oh where was the fudge recipe? Of course, in the binder of family recipes that I had put together over the years. Within fifteen minutes, I had typed it into an e-mail, and it was on its way to my son who called shortly thereafter.

“Thanks, Mom.”

“No problem. Glad you reminded me where it was.”

“Well, I’m being cheap. Instead of buying chocolate, I’m making it for her.”

“Oh, no. That’s not cheap. Any gift from your own hands, of your own time, is never cheap. You guys have a very Happy Valentine’s Day!”

And so a bit of our family lore was recovered, renewed, and passed on.

Holiday Tin

Holiday Tin

The Good Stuff

The Good Stufff

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Yesterday I encountered two Christmas trees at the mall. Now, I realize Christmas trees before T-day is fraught with controversy. There have been a number of posts on Facebook this week denouncing the presence of Christmas trees before turkeys. I certainly respect those sentiments. I used to feel that way – until I realized I was in love with Christmas trees because they are works of magic in my small, solid earthbound world. For me, if someone wants to turn on the lights and hang the tiny glass balls and stars early, I’m the girl who’s ready to sign on for the fantasy! I want as much magic as I can get for as long as I can get it. And Christmas trees are magic!

My fascination covers the ornaments too. I like to walk through the displays and admire the miniature sleighs and Santas, the adorable Rudolphs, the fairy princesses, and the baby pandas and polar bears. I particularly love the glass ornaments: the silver and gold stars, the moons, and the icy snowflakes. One of my favorite haunts is Anthropologie where I scope out the tiny dolls and woodland creatures I intend to scoop up at the after-Christmas sales. (Since everything at Anthro goes ON SALE eventually, it is against my sacred pocket book principles to pay full price. Especially Anthro’s full
price.) Over the years, I have acquired some gems this way. For example, I have the knitting-doll ornament. (I knit.) I have the “shop local” doll ornament. (I shop, locally and otherwise.) I have the wooly lion. (Ok, I’m a person not a lion, but I’m a Leo person.)

So yesterday, as I bopped along on a mundane errand, on an otherwise mundane Monday, I came , unexpectedly, to this:

Christmas Tree!!

The Christmas Tree!

This gigantic tree soared into the California deep blue November sky, shining with copper, gold, and silver ornaments. The sheer size of it took my breath away. Dwarfed by its grandeur, I stopped to bask in its Christmasy magic – silently apologizing to the turkeys and pilgrims who are waiting to assume the spotlight next Thursday. But I just couldn’t resist flying into the blue sky on that trail of glorious Christmas.

Inspired, I went in search of more fantasy and found these ornaments waiting at Anthro. I will definitely be back when they are ON SALE.

The Ornaments at Anthro

The Ornaments at Antrho

Anthro Cool Bunny

Antrho Cool Bunny

The Other Anthro Cool Bunny

The Other Antrho Cool Bunny

But then, as I hurried along, I came to this little tiny little frosted tree, trapped in a glass jar at Sears. Oh, it wants OUT, I realized at once. It wants out, so its magic can let it grow to be as big as the magic of the tree outside.

Help, let me out!

Help, let me out!

As I stood looking at the little tree, I imagined screwing off the jar’s lid and setting it down in the center of the Sears’s store. What if freeing it and all its Christmas magic would let it grow and grow until it broke through the roof and became as big as its counterpart outside? It reminded me of those tiny little sponge capsules you can drop into the bath. In the warm water, they slowly break through their plastic prisons to become sponge dinosaurs and circus animals and racing cars. What if my little tree had magic inside that would let it reach its full potential as soon as someone freed it from its glass? What if it could emerge, fantastic, shiny, and free, to soar above the mundane? In short, what if I let it’s magic out?

My errand done, and work waiting, I headed off to my beloved chili-red Mini Cooper with black bonnet stripes and the world’s greatest vanity plate. (Another blog to be). But as I went, I realized, we are that little tree. We are all trying to break free of the glass jar and to grow into our magical selves so we can shine our unique magic into the world.

Merry Early Christmas! And Here’s to the Escape of Everyone’s Magical Self!

The Magic!

The Magic!

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