This Christmas was different from those in the past for all of us. Despite the fact I would be spending Christmas with my son and daughter-in-law — my first ever Christmas away from home — I put up my Charlie Brown-ish artificial tree and a few other "essential" (to borrow a pandemic word) decorations, like my small nativity set (as opposed to the one where the camels are a foot tall) and the lighted candles in the window.
Although I put the decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving, as I always do, I found myself procrastinating on taking them down. After months and months of darkness brought about by the pandemic and isolation (yes, my dining room table is still a desk rather than a place to eat), the brightly lit and colorful tree gave me solace and a ray of hope that by next Christmas everything would be back to, if not normal, a new normal.
I stood by the tree numerous times, touching an ornament and remembering where it came from on our travels or the person who had made it, many of whom are no longer with me.
One of my favorites is a crocheted angel, made by the wife of my husband's roommate when he was a patient at a rehab facility in Springfield, prior to our last Christmas together. I can't remember the woman's name, or her husband's, or even what they looked like. But I can see her hands as they constantly worked the crochet hook, her mouth occasionally moving as if in silent prayer, making angels by the dozens as she sat by her husband's side, and then giving them to people as a sign of hope.
Her husband passed away a few days later, my husband six weeks later. She was older at the time and she may be gone, too, by now, but the hope she gave me lives on in that little angel — and God knows, we need that more than ever in these times.
One night, after spending time with ornaments my Aunt Marion (Duprey) had made, I took out her cookbook. I wanted something more to remind me of her — and nothing does that quite like making one of her favorite recipes. I chose her rich, fudgy brownies ...
BAKED FUDGE (Brownies)
2 ounces baking chocolate
1/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nut meats (chopped)
1/2 cup butter
Cut chocolate into pieces and put it in the milk. Stir and cook over low heat until smooth and a paste is formed.
Beat the eggs, add the sugar and stir well. Cool chocolate paste, then add the egg mixture. Add the flour and salt, and mix well. Add the vanilla and the nuts.
Melt the butter and add to the mixture. Beat well and then turn into a greased 9-inch pan.
Bake 40 to 45 minutes at 350 F.
Makes 16 brownies.