We have all been there. Being presented with the dreaded fruit cake during holiday gift giving. This Christmas Eve it was my turn. And so I sat with a frozen smile as my mother-in-law proudly bestowed the brilliant golden box before me. My three sisters moved their chairs closer and looked on with feigned interest and hidden smirks. The lovely box was adorned with a bright red bow and contained several descriptive lines describing its contents; “Light as a feather and made with love from mother…” I pondered what mother, could do that to her family? The enticing prose of the copywriter flowed “a painstaking seven day process to perfection in each loaf…” seven days might provide an explanation for the rock hardness of the cake. And then the final line, “Bringing Families Together for Centuries.” Or apart for years. The real reason why families members don’t speak? Someone gifted another with a fruit cake.
Returning home that evening, I placed the gift on my kitchen counter furiously contemplating to whom I could pass it on. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” echoed in and out of my consciousness. Glancing again at the festive box it represented a cruel dichotomy – the outside Dr. Jekyll, the inside Mr. Hyde. In the end, I did the only reasonable thing possible. Pay it forward.
Our home borders a hundred acre nature preserve with every creature imaginable in residence. Waiting till night fall I carried the fruit cake out to the woods and removed it from the box. I gingerly placed it just off the walking trail near a bush resembling a small Christmas tree. With a new found lightness in my step I returned home. God Bless us everyone! The next morning I poured myself a cup of coffee and made my way outside. Approaching the tree underneath where I had laid it, I stared in confusion. The cake in all its splendor stood – untouched. Several pieces of fruit had been dislodged from the foundation and now lay scattered aside amid a large chunk of crumbled cake. I imagined a wily raccoon, delighted with his Christmas morning find, removing several with his delicate paws, gobbling them furiously and then realizing like his human counterparts, he had been duped. It was a fruit cake plain and simple.