Dear Loafers: Christmas Edition Vol. 1
Below you’ll find some Christmas memories from a couple of our readers. We thought they were pretty good stories. We hope you enjoy them.
I was visiting an elderly neighbor last year. She cut me a slice of homemade fruitcake. Normally, I’m not crazy about fruitcake, but this one was really good. I complimented her on it and she told me this story. I thought you might like it.
When I was a little girl, we lived on a farm in Missouri. It was back in the 1920s, what people called the “Roaring Twenties.” My father’s farm was very successful and we had wonderful Christmas parties every year. My mother always baked hams and pies and fruitcakes. They were delicious—moist and sweet with lots of fruit. And she would pour homemade apple brandy over them.
Then the depression came and no one had any money. All the crops were failing because of the droughts. Thankfully we didn’t lose the farm but we couldn’t afford to have those big parties anymore and just barely had enough food to get by ourselves.
My mother still made the fruitcakes, though. She made them extra big and heavy so they would be more filling because we didn’t have much else.
I didn’t know it at the time because I was so young, but I think my mother got a little crazy back then because of not having any food. She would skip her own meals for days at a time so us kids could eat and she put locks on the pantry and cellar so no one but her could get to what food we did have. Then she would ration it out.
After a few years I got married and the war came and my husband joined the Navy and we moved out here where he was stationed. I’d send some money back when I could but the farming got better and things weren’t so bad for Mama and Daddy anymore.
But Mama never got over not having enough food in those days. She canned everything they grew that they didn’t sell. What they did sell, she spent the money on more food. She bought a big, floor freezer and packaged up green beans and black-eyed peas and corn. When the freezer got full, she bought another one.
She died back in the 1970s. I flew to Missouri take care of her things. Those two big freezers were crammed full of vegetables. I gave them all away to her neighbors.
The next day I went into one of the barns and found another freezer. I opened it up and it was full of fruitcakes. There were dozens of them, all wrapped up in plastic wrap and tin foil. I saw those fruitcakes and just went to crying.
I found a trucking company that could keep the freezer running while moving it and had it shipped back home. My husband thought I was going a little crazy too, and maybe I was, but I just had to keep those fruitcakes.
After that, every December first, I take one of those fruitcakes out of the freezer and have a slice every day until Christmas. They’re a little dry when they first thaw but I pour some apple brandy over them and they come right back to life. When I take that first bite I close my eyes and I’m a little girl back in Missouri before things got bad, and we would have those Christmas parties with the hams and the apple pies and the deviled eggs and the hoop cheese and the homemade cider.
I took this one out a few days ago. That big, ol’ freezer’s empty now. This was the last one.
My neighbor died two weeks ago on November 30th. It was the day before she would have taken out a fruitcake, if there had been one left to take out.
San Diego, CA
You asked for Christmas memories, well here’s one of my favorites.
Way back in the 1980s (can you guys remember that far back?) I was living in the DC area. My girlfriend had family in Los Angeles and, because this was our first Christmas since we’d started getting serious, she wanted me to go meet them.
Because of work schedules, she flew out a few days before Christmas while I had to stay behind to take care of business. Unfortunately, between work, last minute scheduling and the crush of holiday travelers, the soonest I was able to get a flight out was on Christmas Day.
Dulles airport on Christmas morning was mostly deserted…it was almost like walking into an empty gymnasium. My footsteps actually echoed off the distant walls. I got to the booking desk and checked my bags with a bunch of ticked-off airline employees who had to work instead of being home watching their kids open presents, then walked on through the cavernous building to security.
Interestingly, I was the very first person to board the plane. That was kind of cool. What was even cooler, though, was that I was also the very last person to board. That’s right, loafers, I was the ONLY passenger on a transcontinental flight from the east to the west coast.
The funniest part was that the cabin crew all went through their pre-flight routines just like it was any other weekday flight jammed full of businessmen and vacationers. One stewardess gave the safety lecture (“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure…”) while another walked up and down the empty aisle pointing, gesturing and pantomiming the use of oxygen masks and seat belts. Then the captain came on.
“Merry Christmas, ladies and gentlemen and welcome aboard XYZ flight 123* to Los Angeles International. We’ll be flying at an altitude…” I stood up and stepped out into the aisle, looking around just to make sure no one else had snuck on board, but the plane was truly empty. All the same my little excursion drew a sharp rebuke from a flight attendant who got onto the intercom and snapped “All passengers please return to their seats now!”
After takeoff the pilot turned off the fasten seat belt light and the attendants began their inflight service. They loaded the cart up with drinks and peanuts, then one of them pushed it all the way down to where I sat. I ordered a scotch, thanked her and then, as she started back towards the front of the plane I called her back.
“How often will you be coming by? I’ll want another before long.” Never fly sober—that’s my motto.
She looked around for a minute and shook her head.
“Why don’t you just come up front and hang out with us.”
I spent the next several hours stretched out across two, first-class seats drinking scotch, and chatting with the stewardesses—Candi, Brandi, Mandi and Sandi. They put on music and brought out the good, first-class appetizers (caviar, gourmet cheeses and pate). At one point the captain even came back and had a “Merry Christmas” champagne toast with us (this was back in the 1980s, after all—things were different back then). He shook hands with me and we talked football for a few minutes. We were both Redskins fans.
As the plane came into Los Angeles, the stewardesses began cleaning up the cabin and preparing for the landing. One of them passed by me and casually dropped a scrap of paper into my lap. A name and a phone number—the same area code as mine. A minute later she turned and smiled.
After landing, saying our good-byes and deboarding the plane, I found my girlfriend and tossed the scrap of paper into the trash. Unfortunately, I am scrupulously faithful to women I am involved with.
I say “unfortunately” because a few weeks later my girlfriend broke up with me. I guess her parents didn’t like me. I wished then I’d kept the phone number.
The flight back to DC was no fun at all. It was the Sunday after New Year’s so everybody in the world was crammed on board. Not one empty seat. Nor did I see any old friends among the stewardesses.
To this day I have never boarded a flight even remotely as pleasant as that one. I can only chalk it up to one thing—just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Jimmy Stewart and the Grinch, I had experienced a Christmas miracle.
Merry Christmas, Loafers!
Falls Church, VA
* For obvious reasons the real names of the airline and crewmembers will not be revealed.