Candlelight Christmas

Lakeshore Chronicles - 10


Susan Wiggs

Part 1

Christmas Pickles

The origin of the Christmas pickle is steeped in mystery. It seems no one knows the real truth. The hand- blown glass pickle ornaments from Lauscha in Germany can date back as far as 1847, and are treasured by families everywhere. The first child to spy the ornament on the tree Christmas morning gets an extra gift from Santa, and the first adult enjoys good luck all the year through. It’s probably just a marketing hook, but who doesn’t like presents and good luck?

The pickle prize inspired this recipe for jars of colorful pickles. Since these are no-process pickles, they are a) easy and b) perishable.

Much like a woman’s heart.

No-Process Pickles

1 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Handful of fresh dill

Whole peppercorns and peeled garlic cloves

Kirby cucumbers (or regular cucumbers, cut into quarters lengthwise)

Red radishes, sliced thin

Fill clear glass jars with the pickles and radishes, creating a nice color palette of red and green. Add the herbs and spices. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a jar with a lid, and shake to dissolve. Pour over pickles in the jars. Seal and refrigerate. These will be ready the next morning and can last up to a month—after that, please discard for safety’s sake. The longer the cucumbers pickle, the softer they will get, and if you don’t grasp that metaphor, I can’t help you. Anyway, if you like things fresh and crisp, don’t wait too long to eat these.

[Source: Original; adapted from Ohio State University Extension guidelines, 2009]


Christmas Past

There were worse things than spending Christmas with your ex-husband, thought Darcy Fitzgerald as she pulled up in front of the house.

A root canal without novocaine, for example. That was probably worse. A crash landing in a small aircraft, perhaps. Reading Silas Marner in ninth grade. Frostbite, a crocodile attack, eating a bad oyster. Head lice.

She enumerated the many ways things could be worse, all the while bracing herself for the hours to come. The car tires churned up last night’s melting snow as she jockeyed her Volkswagen into the small space.

She’d dressed with special care, determined for Huntley to see that he’d lost something special. Deep down, she knew the notion was ridiculous; Huntley Collins had not truly seen her in a very long time.

While pulling the bag of gifts from the trunk, she stepped into the ankle-deep grimy slush. As it flooded her favorite kitten-heel suede shoes, the bone-freezing ice took her breath away. She reared back, slipping on the crusty ice, and landed butt-first in a dirty snowbank. The bag of parcels broke open, and her festively wrapped packages littered the ground.

“Awesome,” she muttered, pulling herself up and trying to brush the filth off her skirt.

Perhaps the most hellish part of the day was the knowledge that she had agreed to this travesty. Huntley had convinced her to get through the holidays together so they wouldn’t ruin things for everyone else.

The Fitzgeralds and the Collinses had been best friends and neighbors for decades. The two Collins boys and the five Fitzgerald girls had grown up together, playing hide-and-seek on summer nights, surfing at Cupsogue Beach, pulling pranks on one another, sneaking beer from the fridge for liquid courage before a school dance, telling each other secrets...and lies. Huntley’s older brother was married to Darcy’s older sister. The families’ fortunes were meant to be entwined forever.

Unfortunately, Huntley’s notion of forever spanned approximately five years. Darcy had found out about his affair—with his ex-wife, just to make things even worse—before Thanksgiving. Yet she had come today out of regard for her stepkids, Amy and Orion, though she expected little from the sullen, resentful teenagers.

She’d been part of their lives for five years, and she had selected their gifts with care. In a weak moment, she’d bought a little something for Huntley, so he’d have something under the tree from his kids, who were too self-absorbed and, at the moment, confused, to shop for him.

She found the smallest of the scattered packages in the ditch—the yodeling plastic pickle. There was a tradition that the first to find the pickle on the tree would get a special surprise. She moved the switch on the back of the pickle. It made a brief gurgling sound and then died.

“Surprise,” she muttered, and trudged grimly up the stairs to the front door.

Part 2

Just because you’re a single dad is no excuse for feeding your kid junk food. At some point you have to suck it up and learn to cook like a man.

Massive Spaghetti Feed

Never underestimate the power of the fantastic bowl of spaghetti.

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