“A Little Fruitcake”

by David Valdes Greenwood

 

c.2007, DaCapo Press • $14.95 / $18.00 Canada • 182 pages

 

F

or 11 months of the year, you barely think about it. But every Christmastime, the memory of it fills your brain with the same kind of feelings you had that holiday way back when.

Maybe that morning, Santa brought you what you wanted more than anything else.  Or maybe you didn’t get what you wanted, and it still stings after all these years.

Or perhaps a family member’s presence or absence makes you recall that Christmas more than any other you’ve had in your life.

We all have had those unforgettable Christmas experiences, but only the brave put them to paper. Author David Valdes Greenwood is one of those souls, and in the new book, “A Little Fruitcake,” Valdes Greenwood shares 12 memories of Christmas past and a few that should have just been passed.

 

 Starting with his fifth Christmas, Valdes Greenwood recalls how much he wanted a doll of his very own that year.  His newly-divorced mother was prepared to wrap the toy and put it under the tree. Valdes Greenwood’s formidable Grammy, a small woman, who seems in this book to be 10 feet tall, was completely against her youngest grandson’s wish.  The first chapter in this book, “The Powder Keg Under the Tree,” speaks to the child in us who captured the gift most wanted, despite adult misgivings.

A little later in a kid’s life comes the time when he or she questions the presence of a Santa on every street corner.  Has the truth been deduced?  In the chapter titled “Bad to Santa,” Valdes Greenwood and his older brother figure it all out, but instead of being nice about it, they’re definitely naughty.

 

And who can forget those old sibling skirmishes at Christmas?  Grammy was famous for her fudge, her divinity, and her fruitcake, and in “The War of the Fudges,” she finds an unusual (but very practical) way to even out the he’s-got-more-than-me battle.

And then there’s the time when a kid realizes he’s not a kid any more, and Christmas is changed forever.  In the last chapter, Valdes Greenwood remembers the end of his childhood and the sudden realization that his nutty-as-a-fruitcake family was actually way more than just half-baked.

 

This time of year, when you’re about finished fighting the crowds and listening to the umpteenth rendition of “Jingle Bells,” there’s an antidote to all that perfunctory cheer -- real cheer, in the form of a book like this one.

“A Little Fruitcake” will make you laugh out loud at some of the universal, almost-from-a-movie memories that Valdes Greenwood shares, including messing up at Christmas programs, being the kid most picked-on, and the “oh-no” feeling you get when you know that precious last crinkly paper-wrapped package under the tree contains (ugh) new socks. 

Later on in the book, the memories sober up a bit, but are no less appealing in their everyman feel.

If you cherish any memories of Christmas past, let this book help you remember and laugh.  “A Little Fruitcake” is a real peach of a holiday book.