Friday, December 10, 2010

Right on the lips

Today I went to lunch with my dad and his sister.  Actually I took them to lunch as neither are driving any more.  Well, they took me to lunch because they paid.  Anyway...

Aren't they cute?
(Please don't tell my dad I called them cute.)

They're one year apart - 89 and 88 years old.

Today when I woke up I decided I wanted to take something to my Aunt Elva.  Last year at Christmas I took her a pointsettia but this year I wanted to bake something.  First, a little background...

Norm and Elva's mom (my grandma) owned a bakery in Liverpool, England and some of my most vivid memories of Isabelle are sitting at her lace-covered table while she served us 'tea.'  Every afternoon she had tea and something sweet, as is the tradition of every good Brit.  She always served in a beautiful tea pot with a crocheted tea cozy - loose tea was added to the boiling water and then poured into china cups through a sieve.  Then we always added gobs of sugar and milk.  Yes, milk.   

But it was her baked goods that I remember most fondly.  She made little tarts filled with lemon curd and homemade jam.  Many kinds of cookies.  And shortbread.  Thick, buttery, rich shortbread.  It was round with scalloped edges and so big you could hardly eat a whole piece. 

So this morning I decided I would make Dad and Elva some shortbread, which would conjure sweet memories of their mother's baking!  I had all three ingredients: butter, sugar and flour.  Well, not quite enough butter but I added some spreadable butter from the tub to make up the difference.  And of course my grandmother would never have mixed it with an electric mixer - she used her hands for all her baking.  And I may not have had the right cookie cutter:
So I pressed the dough in a 9x9 glass pan, made some tree-shaped fork pokes and baked it until the edges were just starting to turn golden.  When it cooled, I sliced it into squares and arranged them on two little plates with some Christmas candies.  I didn't take a picture because, well, it didn't really look all that great.

So, it didn't taste quite like Grandma's.  But Elva and Norm were very nice about it and told me they tasted good.  No one shed a tear in happy remembrance of their dear mother.  But I think they appreciated the effort anyway.

So we went to lunch at Applebees, our go-to lunch place.  I always ask them lots of questions about their growing up years because it's fun to hear them tell things from two very different perspectives.  There may even be some arguing about whether Santa left 2 pennies or two nickels in the toes of their stockings. 

I told them what I remembered about Christmas when our families used to always get together - and neither one could remember that at all.  Every Christmas we went to dinner at either our house or theirs.  I liked going there because my aunt always had one of those silver aluminum trees with a revolving light shining on it to make it turn blue and green and red and yellow.  I know - pretty tacky but when I was six, I was fascinated by it.  I thought they must be so rich!  Elva told me today she couldn't imagine ever having a silver tree!

So after we finished our Pick'N Pair lunch combos (clam chowder today!), we drove back to Elva's and had to go in for a few minutes to see her gas fireplace and hear about her latest great-grandbaby (#8!).  Then, it was time to head back across the river to go home. 

And that's when it happened.  Like it's always happened.  Elva cupped her hands around my face and gave me a big kiss - right on the lips.  Just the way she always has.  Because although my family never gave kisses (until my mom started kissing us later in life), you never left my aunt and uncles without one.  And I loved it! 

So here is my Christmas suggestion for you: 

Give lots of hugs and kisses this season.  And every season.   
They won't be forgotten.

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