Monday, December 10, 2012

The Nut Lady

A few years ago, most of my holiday shopping was canceled due to an accident involving my left foot and the backdoor step. The diagnosis: a fracture. It was s Saturday. Wrapped in a temporary splint, I was sent home from the hospital on crutches to wait six days for my doctor's appointment. There would be no Christmas shopping.

            My sister joked, "You have options. You can do a lot of damage online."

            That wasn't my option. I loved to hunt for the perfect gift. The crisp pine-spiced air, bejeweled shop windows, and the kindness of strangers lifted my spirits.

            The holidays are merry days at our house. We are a mixed faith household, Jewish and Catholic, spiritual rather than religious, with two apathetic sons. Our family believes in rituals like lighting a menorah and decorating a Christmas tree. We fry latkes and bake Christmas cookies. I believe the holidays are both a time to absorb joy (mostly through food) and to reflect joy, give goodies to others. And, I know this to be true, the kind renderings of the heart add to my happiness. 

            David, my husband, is a computer doctor. This allows him the opportunity to visit many homes. His clients are generous during the holidays. We've received bottles of wine, boxes of chocolates, and that season, two pounds of shelled walnuts came home along with a repair job. 

            Could I let them go to waste? In past years, when the walnut supply from neighboring trees was cheap and aplenty we found a great recipe for candied nuts. We gifted them to everyone for the holidays. Now it looked as though we were back in business with a new source. Couldn't I gift the nuts again? My foot was my first concern.

            David suggested, "Sit on a stool and stir. What's so hard about that?" 

            Now my David isn't mean-spirited. He just likes candy, and these nuts are small bits of bliss. They crunch in the mouth in the most satisfying way. One is tricked into thinking that nut candy is healthy. Whole handfuls can disappear in seconds.

            That year the first day of Hanukkah was three days before Christmas. In preparation, I stirred batch after batch of nuts. It was insanity with my injury, but I stopped often to prop up my foot. On the eve of Hanukkah we lit candles and said a blessing. For dinner we fried latkes and ate them with applesauce.

The night of Christmas Eve we drank eggnog with the neighbors, and later examined our supply of gift candy. Seven lucky recipients of nuts were on my list. Some of the batches, I split in two, because they were for a household of one. This solution might have confused my math, because while counting my inventory I found eight gift-wrapped packages.     


            I checked the list again. Was someone forgotten? Should we rip open the last package and eat them? No. Better to have too much than not enough, whispered my mother in my ear. I put the little package with its paper bow aside. 

            Eight o'clock, Christmas Eve, there was a knock at the door. Our friends, a couple from across town, came by to pick up a laptop. It was a present that my husband had ordered for their son. They surprised us with fudge and Christmas cookies, and not just a small amount, three varieties of fudge and four types of cookies.   

            For this magnitude of giving, I felt obligated to take action. The card I sent them didn't seem enough. I hugged them and thanked them, but that didn't seem enough. Then I saw the dandy little package set aside. No note attached. Perfect.

            A miracle! 

            Number eight, my last batch of walnut candy! A miracle on Christmas Eve! Like the miracle birth of the baby Jesus! Like the miracle of light lasting eight days for the menorah!

            Was I nuts? 

            Yes.  And now I am known as the nut lady.