The red tin is one version of home for me. The familiar words of Collin Street Bakery with its glossy picture of snow and horses always takes me to a place of comfort and simplicity. Every Christmas my father ordered this particular red tin which contained a colorful fruitcake. I still wonder why my father who grew up with spicy curry and rice developed an affinity for such a strongly disliked holiday staple. Every year, it showed up on our doorstep and that’s how I knew that holiday season arrived at the Bhatt household.
How did we celebrate Christmas time? In the morning my father woke early. He was our resident Starbucks barista, making the chai and coffee with deliberation and ensuring that there was just enough mixing so that a thin foam would appear before you could see the light-brown smooth spiced tea. The smells of Red Label Tea, cardamom, and sandalwood incense filled the air. On the Sony boombox, my mom tuned it to the Indian radio station and when a song switched to a 1950 classic, my parents smiled while dancing around our scratched cherry wood table. My sister and I sat next to each other and I’d grab my slice of fruitcake and pick out the sugar glazed pecans off of the top. We just sat around the table, our Christmas tree a few feet away from us and our version of caroling via Hindi music blaring through the space.
After all these years, the memory is filled with a clarity I can touch. I realize now it wasn’t about the red tin or chai or the being Hindu or having a Christmas tree. It was about what you couldn’t quantify. The laughter, love, and simplicity of being together with family. The familiarity of tradition and the comfort it brings. I didn’t realize until much much later the magnitude of that fruitcake and what it did for our family. In times of darkness, I move forward by thinking about that memory and how safe I felt in that tiny kitchen with the people who loved me the most.
Did my father know he was creating this place for me? I suspect that he didn’t realize all the lessons that he taught me with that red tin. That despite the pendulum swinging between light and dark, hope and despair, birth and loss, comfort and distress that those holiday mornings are permanently in my core. And it is place where I can move forward by looking back.
Much love to all of you during this holiday season. May you all experience your special kind of fruitcake. xoxo Rudri
IMAGE: RICHARD ELZEY VIA FLICKR UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE
This was beautiful and so poignant. You are right–it’s not about the gifts.
Two traditions from my family that we’re passing down to our girls: a) they always get new pajamas on Christmas Eve and b) they change into their new pajamas, we bundle them into the car with warm blankets and drive around to see all of the holiday lights in town. Then, hot chocolate for everyone!
Hope you have a wonderful holiday!
Thank you Rudri for sharing this so beautifully. Your father created all this and more with the love he had in his heart and he will always be with you, the way these memories are in your core. Happy Holidays. Love and Peace. xoxo
Beautifully said. Love and family (and fruitcake!) you’ve captured the essence of Christmas. My father loves fruitcake as well, and I don’t. Someone gave me one of those tin cakes a few years ago for Christmas and he was delighted when I passed it along to him. Thank you for the lovely card…wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
Did your father know he was creating that space for you? I love that question. Do we realize the “spaces” we may be creating for our children? So profound and thoughtful. Happiest of holidays to you and yours.