by Jane Tice from Victoria, B.C.
Dec 22, 12
In 1984 my sister Elizabeth followed family tradition and took to the road. Having covered most of Europe on a previous adventure, she and a friend headed for India; the first stop on a yearlong adventure, that was to end, finally, in England.
We had all begun in England and were, in some ways, still English to the core, never more so than at Christmas. Christmas in our house was mincemeat pies; fruitcakes of all different weights and colours; and of course plum pudding, hot and slathered in brandy butter. My mother always began her preparations in early fall, never deviating from the recipes, tried and true.
That year, as a special surprise for Elizabeth, Mom decided to make an extra pudding and mail it to India. To Bombay to be precise, where Elizabeth thought she would be for the holidays. Before the days of email and Facebook, leaving forwarding addresses was the only way that longed-for news of home could find you. Phone calls were only for emergencies.
The pudding mix was prepared as always, though to ward off tropical bugs my mother mixed in a triple dose of brandy. She also used extra wrapping: she doubled the cheesecloth, she doubled the cotton and she doubled the tin foil. She placed the cake in a sturdy box, wrapped it in brown paper, tied it with string, and carefully printed the addresses: a return one to Victoria and an exotic outward bound one for India. Into the mail it went with crossed fingers and a stunning amount of postage.
Elizabeth didn’t get it.
Rude words were muttered that Christmas about the efficiency of post offices everywhere. Evil thoughts slipped in of someone in a dead letter office enjoying a wayward Christmas treat.
The New Year came, Elizabeth returned from her travels, and the pud was forgotten.
And then, almost a year later, I looked out the front window to see my mother, a package in her hand, laughing her way up the driveway. The outside wrapper was clean: two addresses, my mother’s here in Victoria and her sister’s in England. Inside was a wonder. The box with the Christmas pudding had followed my sister for a year; every forwarding address clearly written, every missed address carefully crossed out: New Delhi, Kathmandu, Christchurch, Sydney, Darwin, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Fiji, Honolulu and more, until it had reached England with not an inch of space left. My aunt, intrigued, had rewrapped it and sent it once more on its way, new postage attached.
The pudding though completely desiccated, was still in one piece. My mother, firmly in the generation of waste not want not, tucked the pudding into the cupboard: Christmas was coming around again. And sure enough, on Christmas day, she steamed it for an extra long time, both to rehydrate it and to dispatch anything untoward that might have survived the desiccation. And then, she served it, with great flare and fully aflame, to a very sceptical table.
It was delicious.