In December every magazine, ezine, and newspaper publishes stories dealing with the holidays celebrated during this month--Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanza. They're usually emotional, feel-good stories or memories of past years. I wrote earlier about writing these seasonal stories when the mood hits you--mainly during this month. Seeing something in a mall or at church might trigger a memory, and you've suddenly got a story to tell. Tell it now, but don't expect to see it in print until next year. Only once in awhile, an editor needs a last minute filler and will take your story.
Off and on this month, I'm going to post some of the Christmas stories I've written on the blog. Many are childhood memories triggered by various things. The one for today was brought to mind when I ate a piece of very hard fudge one Christmas. Just the opposite of the kind my mother made. I wrote the story, sent it to Chicken Soup for the Soul Chocolate Lovers book editors, and many months later was rewarded with a contract. The book sits on my shelf and the story still brings a smile.
A Spoonful of Fudge
Spiral back in time with me to a mid-December day in 1947 and relive one of my treasured memories. With our teacher’s guidance, my third grade class planned the Christmas party, which would be held on our final day before the holiday break. Our classroom already looked festive thanks to a live Christmas tree decorated with our art work. Cut-out paper snowflakes adorned the tall windows, and in free time we’d made construction paper chains which we used to decorate every available space in the room.
But now the most important part of getting ready was upon us. Miss Marshak asked for volunteers to bring Christmas napkins, cookies, and punch.
“Now what else would be good to have at the party?” she asked.
A boy in the last row hollered, “Fudge!”
At his one-word answer, I sat up straight and waved my hand in the air. When Miss Marshak did not call on me immediately, I bounced up and down in my chair and gestured furiously.
“Yes, Nancy,” she finally said.
“I’ll bring the fudge. My mother makes the best fudge in the world.” My mouth watered at the thought of the creamy, rich chocolate candy my entire family loved.
I could hardly wait to get home and tell my mother that I’d volunteered to bring fudge for the party. She’d be so excited to share her special fudge with all my classmates. I barely felt the cold December air as I hurried along the six blocks from school to our apartment building. My feet scarcely touched the stairs as I sailed up the three flights to our door.
Mother stopped peeling potatoes when I burst into the kitchen. I announced the great news, but I didn’t get the reaction I’d expected. Her face paled. “Fudge? Isn’t there something else you can bring?”
“No. Other people signed up for the rest.” My excitement deflated like a pricked balloon.
What could be wrong?
Mother shrugged, picked up the potato peeler and said, “It’s all right. I’ll make the fudge.”
The December days slid by, one by one. I helped Mother put up our Christmas decorations. Dad took my brothers and me to pick out a tree, and Mother spent her days wrapping packages and baking special cookies and Christmas cakes. At school, we practiced for our part in the all-school musical program, read Christmas stories in reading time and created our own in Language Arts period. Giggles got louder as Christmas surrounded us.
Finally, the day before the party arrived. Our teacher went over a checklist to make sure everyone remembered what they were to bring the next day. How could I forget? I’d thought about the chocolaty, wonderful fudge Mother would make every day. I could almost taste its smoothness and the lingering sweetness it left.
When I got home that afternoon, my baby brother was crying, and Mother looked about to cry along with him. “What’s wrong?” I asked. My worry centered not on the baby or my mother but on the fudge.
Mother sank into a kitchen chair. “I’ve made three batches of fudge today, and none of them worked. They’re all too soft. I can’t send it to school.”
I had no idea why she was so disturbed. Fudge was always soft and gooey. We spooned it up every time we had it. “Why?” was all I could think to say.
“Nancy,” my mother said, “fudge is not meant to be eaten with a spoon. It should be firm enough to pick it up in a piece and pop into your mouth. I beat and beat it, but it’s like it always is when I make it. Too soft. And I made it three times today!”
Tears welled in her eyes, and my baby brother reached up and patted her cheek. Maybe even he knew how bad she felt. How could I bring the fudge to school? I loved my mother’s fudge, but maybe nobody else would. Maybe they’d laugh when they saw it. I worked up my courage and asked, “What are we going to do?”
The next morning, I carried a big pan of fudge and 21 spoons to school.
The soft candy was the hit of the party. After we had our punch and cookies, everyone gathered around the cake pan of fudge, spoon in hand, and dug in. My fears were never realized. One of the boys licked his spoon and said, “You were right. Your mom does make the best fudge in the world.” Echoes of agreement sounded around the circle. We dipped our spoons for more.
Some years later, Mother began to make a new fudge recipe that contained marshmallow crème. The ads promised it was foolproof--firm fudge every time. They were right, but the spoonfuls of soft fudge we’d eaten all those years before remained my favorite, and I never forgot how my mother found a solution to what might have been my biggest third grade disaster. It wasn't only fudge she'd given me that December day.