The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I’ve lost track of when the fruit cakes first began arriving.

But every year they faithfully came in December.   It was addressed to me, at my address, but I knew it was for my Dad. 

There was the cardboard box from the Collin Street Bakery in Texas, with the note on the outside that said it was a gift from Beverly. I always called her Aunt Beverly even though technically she was a cousin, because she was my father’s cousin. She and Francis, as she called him, were raised almost together, and the three, along with another cousin Sonny (much better name than Clarence!) were as close as siblings.

My father always told me that his cousins Beverly and Helen were as beautiful as angels. She was younger than he was, and I think he felt he was her protector.  Their houses were a few blocks apart in a town called Hollywood, California.  She was a beauty, and he was able to get part time work riding horses or doing fencing scenes in movies.  My impression was that it was a kinder, more elegant time.

In our house when I was growing up, there were books inscribed ‘from Beverly to Francis’, the sort of books that cousins gave each other once upon a time. Adventure books and story books and books of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry. All the history of an affectionate childhood could be summed up in those gift books.

Their affection followed them into old age. They lived in different states, she in her beloved California, and he in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, and then Washington. Contact became less frequent but more important because of that.  She still sent him books, and as he grew older, I helped him see that Sees Chocolates were sent to her. In all the essential ways, they still knew one another well.

The fruit cakes are excellent, every year.  I know, some people are fruit cake impaired and do not understand the savor of glace cherries and fat raisins and pecans both whole and in pieces.  But these are excellent fruitcakes, only a shade away from the goodness of home made.

Every year since they began arriving, I’ve always had a generous slice, and often more than one.  This year was no exception.

The fruit cake came, and we opened it and shared it. Tonight the last slice was eaten. By me.

Both my father and Beverly have been dead for years now.  I imagine she arranged that yearly gift  as an automatic delivery.  She was thoughtful that way.  I suspect that my cousin Kathy continues to fund it, another thoughtful gesture.

Each year, the fruit cake arrives from Beverly, and with it the warmth of a ghost friendship, the friendship of those Californian cousins.  Once they were children, then teenagers, adults, and then elderly.  The friendship lasted and ultimately it lives on.

Merry Christmas!


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