Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend: Journey's End

We're home again after a 3-day trip to Virginia for an annual ritual: the Sisters' Fruitcake Bake and Gift Exchange. We started this the year our father died, in 2006 and have continued each year since then. Each year we meet at a different house--last year, we were at my son Jon's home in Leesburg (and that was the last time I actually saw my son, so how fortunate that we made the cakes there. Otherwise my last visit with him would have been Thanksgiving).
 



This year the sisters, all eight of us, met at sister Cathy's house, which used to be our parents' home. It seemed fitting that we should be there, in Mom's old kitchen that has become Cathy's warm space. Cathy and her husband are slowly remodeling the house, one project at a time. The kitchen is in line for updates too.

We're getting better at this. We started work promptly at 10:00 am as scheduled, and the last batch was in the oven before 3:00pm. It was crowded but that did not slow us down.



We make a LOT of cakes, so this is no small feat. Not all the sisters make or even like fruitcake, so some just help and visit. I think we ended up with 40-45 cakes this year--these are the small loaf pans, not the big ones!



The reason for the annual get-together goes back to our childhood. Our mother called the day after Thanksgiving "stir-up day," referring to her English custom of making fruitcakes and plum puddings on this day. These were soaked in brandy and stored in a dark, cool place until the holiday feasts. We helped as children, always stirring the fruitcake mix three times and making a wish. As we grew to adulthood, the custom continued although not all of us participated. I usually did not, simply because of distance and family commitments of my own. But after Mom passed away, the ritual became a healing process and then a time that we could schedule to be together each year. It's important to all of us now, and I would not want to miss it.

Another part of the tradition is bringing in the younger females in the family. The first year it was just the sisters, but now each year more and more female relatives join us for at least part of the day and the younger generation is learning the "secret" recipe. (The secret--not following the recipe).



An odd thing happened the first year we got together. Many of us brought a small gift for each sister, completely unplanned. The next year, everyone brought gifts. These are usually nothing big or expensive, and there are some funny unspoken rules: homemade is awesome, thrift or yard sale finds are especially welcome, and if it's something new form the store--well, that's fine too because a sister chose it! I've received gifts wrapped in vintage linens, gifts in jars, gifts in baskets, and even some very carefully wrapped and decorated. Each finds a special place in my home, and each brings a smile whenever I see or use it.

I feel blessed to have sisters who know me so well that even though we don't see each other often, they know my likes and select so well. I'll post photos of this year's gifts tomorrow. At the end of the day, we took a quick walk up the street to a thrift shop and had a blast browsing the offerings. Another thing we have in common--we all love antique and junk shops.




Now it's time to finish up some laundry and go to bed. Another blessing of travel: the luxury of your own bed and pillows when you return home.

12 comments:

ELLOUISESTORY said...

Always enjoy your report on this gathering with your sisters! Lovely!

Country Whispers said...

What a lovely tradition. Surprising that you all can set aside the time to gather especially when you all live in different areas.

Angela said...

Hey Granny Sue!

Glad you were able to get together with all of your sisters again this year! Sounds like a great time held by all. Looks like you had perfect weather too!

Anonymous said...

Your telling about your family's sweet tradition has been the perfect antidote to all the Black Friday madness. Family. . . sharing. . .memories . . . that's what it's all about.

Mama-Bug said...

What a wonderful tradition! Being able to spend time with all your sisters and having so much fun. I only have one sister and she hates to cook! Those fruit cakes look so good, I bet the house smelled good while they were baking.

Nance said...

what a great day for you and your sisters. I didn't get together with my 5 sisters for Thanksgiving this year -- but still know the feeling . . .

Nanjemoy Nana said...

I really got a kick that 3 of us showed up with the same bowls! All Homer Laughlin. One found in a thrift store, one from a yard sale and one from ebay. How funny was that? When we visit we find in our homes the same pictures, linens, pottery, vases,....it's amazing and yet feels completely natural. none of us discuss it. It just is. I'm thankful we clear the calendar and make this a must do. The only thing stopping us is the birth of a grandchild and one year because of Roger's burn. We may count on the fact that we will all be there.It's wonderfully dependable and comforting to know this is an absolute.

Rowan said...

That is a lovely photograph of you all and a great tradition that you've all started. You obviously had a happy (and productive!) day together.

TheresaandJay said...

I am very grateful to have such loving sisters! I am also glad we set aside the time to do this, sometimes it takes 2 or 3 dates, but we always work it out. I love having the other members of our families there. It is a wonderful time of sharing and caring, and I wouldn't want to miss it.

megan hicks said...

Fruitcake Day reminds me of my friend from Mexico who got together right after Thanksgiving with her ex-pat friends, migrating from kitchen to kitchen during the weekends before Christmas. Not fruitcakes, though. Tamales.

Granny Sue said...

We do have a good time together. It's the talking, laughing and just seeing each other that makes it so special. The cakes are pretty good too :)

I like moving the place we gather each year. That way we see each other's homes, no one is always the one to have to deal with it, and we can spread out the travel too. I will probably always be the one who travels furthest, but sometimes we can get a little closer to my home (5 hours instead of 6 or 7) and that's nice too. One year we will have to do it at my house, just because :)

Farmchick said...

What a wonderful ritual you have with your sisters.

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