Fruitcakes get no respect in the United States. The hard, dry “bricks” that get re-gifted throughout the festive season — that abomination is what passes for fruitcake. No wonder the mere mention elicits a grimace.
For the real deal you would need to visit someone like my mother, Gladys Morais. She is a master cake-maker, creating elaborate confections depicting Humpty Dumpty, He-Man, clowns and Maypole dancers, Jack and Jill, a Lavender Lady in a country garden, tennis racquets and steamships and more. But the queen of all her creations is her rich fruit cake. It is such an important feature of Christmas, Easter and other special occasions that Mum insists we keep her supplied at all times with the finest brandy–so she can pour it into her fruit cake. With magnificent results –as it makes its way through the raisins and sultanas, the cherries and crystallized ginger, the ground cashew nuts and almonds, the grainy mixture of semolina, sugar, flour, butter and eggs. It crumbles, moist and satisfying, at first bite.
This past Easter we had the pleasure of serving the last carefully hoarded piece of the most recent of my mother’s fruitcakes for dessert. I laid it out in all its splendor on a lovely china serving plate that my husband had inherited from his mother, Goldie Webster.
Two homemakers, raising their families through war and peace, through good times and bad, at two opposite ends of the world, one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the other in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, so improbably making each other’s acquaintance in this way. Did either ever imagine the likelihood of something baked by one of them being served on a plate coming out of the kitchen of the other?
With Mother’s Day just past, this image and the memory that lingers on the tongue, bring to mind another Mother, the one whose readiness to say “Yes” to the unfathomable set in motion a story that has unfolded these two thousand years. I borrow from WordintheHand: “Mary influences Jesus’ life as any mother does, in word and action; in the little things. That he is good with children; that he is considerate with women; that he notices the widow and beggar; that hospitality is important; that people need to eat; that we should not be afraid. His humanity reflects the courage and humility that was hers.”
Citing the familiar story of the Marriage Feast at Cana, WordintheHand tells us that the best line of all was Mary’s injunction to ‘Do as he tells you’. “Having accepted the mantle of Mother, Mary asks us to listen to her Son and to say ‘Yes’. And to do it in our own daily lives; in practical and compassionate ways; with the people we love and those we don’t; to make the everyday extraordinary; to show mercy and to be peacemakers; to live by Love and by ‘yes’.”
The many conspicuously Christian “leaders” who today espouse policies that enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, who are only too willing to let the vulnerable fend for themselves: their mothers probably also taught them to live by Love and by ‘yes.’ But something got lost along the way as these “leaders” pursued wealth and power for themselves. Perhaps they should try and remember what their mothers might have expected of them. It could move them to reinvent their politics and their conduct in the civic square. To not do so is to disavow the wisdom of their mothers. And say “No” to the wisdom of Mary.