A Day of Christmas Baking

Submitted into Contest #178 in response to: Write a story about an unconventional holiday tradition.... view prompt


American Christmas Fiction

Guess I’ve put this phone call off long enough. Why did my sister decide making a plum pudding for Mom and a fruitcake for Dad would be the perfect way to bring a little holiday spirit and harmony to the family? I happen to enjoy Saturdays by myself sans holiday spirit. Maybe she’ll have to work after all. Nurses’ schedules are always changing. Fingers crossed.

Good. The phone’s still ringing. No answer. Oh well, I tried to confirm our plans. Just as I was set to hit the “End Call” button, I heard, “Hello?”

“Oh, hi, you’re home.”

“Just got in. What’s up?”

           “Just wanted to make sure you have tomorrow off. I’m not going to buy all this shit if you can’t make it.”

           “I told you. I made all the arrangements. I definitely have off. Now, do you want me to pick up anything for the cakes, or do you want to do it?” Becky asked.

           “I’ll do it.”

           She probably doesn’t even know where the supermarket is, much less, where to find suet or molasses. Lord, that girl is helpless when it comes to anything even vaguely related to a kitchen.

           “Okay. Where do you want to meet?”

           “I’ll meet you at 68th and Lex right at the top of the stairs at nine o’clock,” I said. “Don’t go down and wait on the station. Stay on the street. Okay?”

           “Okay, okay, I’ve got it. God, you’re such a control freak. Anything else? Anything I can bring?”

           “No, just please try to be on time. I don’t want to be hanging out on the corner like some kind of uptown hooker.”

           “Oh yeah, you’re really going to look like a hooker with a kazillion bags from D’Agostino’s. Who’s going to pick you up? Food Network groupies?”

           “Alright, alright, just be on time.”

           I hung up and thought, what part of my brain was dead when I agreed to this? And since Becky already told Mom and Dad about our big “surprise,” I can’t even change my mind. Sometimes I could just kill that girl. She’s older than I am, she should have more sense! Yeah, right! The day that girl does anything that makes logical sense will be an historic one for sure. Oh well, better get to the store to get all this shit. Let me check my list.

Man, you’d think I was opening up a bakery.

If only Becky hadn’t opened her big mouth and told Mom, we, or I, could have made them right here in my kitchen. But no-o-o-o, once she heard about our plans, Mom decided this should become a new family tradition and the baking should take place in her kitchen.

           “We’ll make a whole day of it! It will be so much fun! I can’t wait,” Becky told me Mom enthusiastically crooned. “The whole apartment will smell like Christmas.”


           Hanging up, Becky thought, I will never understand my sister. It was her idea to make these damned cakes. Now she’s acting like I forced her to do it. Doesn’t she think I have anything better to do than spend my one Saturday off this month baking cakes? I know I probably shouldn’t have told Mom we were going to do this, but I did. I never thought she would take over and decide we should troop out to Queens and bake there. Man, two control freaks in one family is just too much.

           Thank God, Mom’s not much for baking. I can’t imagine the two of them in that kitchen together. They don’t get along on a good day. I can’t imagine what they would be like after spending a long day in a tiny hot kitchen. Talk about World War III! Let’s see, what can I do to keep things calm? I know, I’ll get some cigarettes for Maureen (she’s always running out, and then she becomes a real bitch), and I’ll pick up a bottle of wine. After one glass, Mom won’t care what’s going on in the kitchen. Dad’s smart enough to have already made plans for the day. Good old Dad. He’ll come home about five with a pizza, a movie, and wine and declare that it’s time for everyone to stop working and relax. Or, as he would put it, “It’s 5:00! Tools down!” What do they say? “Blessed are the peacemakers…”


           Oh no, who the hell is at my door at this hour on a Saturday morning. Great way to start my day.

           “Just a sec,” I shouted, pulling on one of Dad’s old shirts that doubled as a robe for me. “Becky! This is a surprise. I thought we were going to meet at the subway.”

           “Well, I figured you probably bought a ton of stuff and you might need some help.”

           “Oh thanks. I thought for a minute that you were going to cancel on me. In which case, I would have had to kill you,” I said with a smile. “You’re right. I could use the help. Remind me, why did you think this was a good idea?”

           “Come on Maur, we’ll have fun. You know you love to bake. I’ll try to stay out of your way and just do what I can to help. I brought some wine for Mom. Good idea, huh?”

           “You are a life saver Becky. Okay, give me a minute to shower and get dressed then we’ll get going before I decide that I have a sudden case of the flu.”

We lugged the bags over to the subway where we were greeted with a trainful of its usual riders: a mix of creeps, perverts, homeless, and wackos, but the ride was altogether uneventful.

           As we struggled down the stairs from the El train at our station, juggling our bags, Becky wailed, “Maur, how much shit did you buy? Are we making cakes for the whole neighborhood? My arms are killing me.”

           “I know, so are mine. I should have bought some of the stuff here. But the supermarket here is miniscule. I doubt they even stock half the stuff we need.”

           “I know. I shopped for Mom not too long ago. They don’t have much for sure, and some of it looks like it’s been on the shelf since we were kids. Oh well, we’ll survive.”

           “Becky, you did call to remind them we were coming today, didn’t you?” I asked, sweat running down my back despite the freezing temperatures.

           “Yeah, I think I mentioned it to Mom the other day. Don’t worry. Where are they going to go? It’s not like they’re always running around somewhere. And Maur, try to be nice to Mom today, okay?”

 “Nice? I’m always nice. She’s the one who finds fault with everything I do or say, and absolutely refuses to give me credit for anything. I know you’re the golden-haired girl who can do no wrong, and it doesn’t bother me anymore, but please don’t act like I’m the one who starts the arguments.”

“I know how you two nip at each other, but I think she’s pretty excited to think you’re willing to do this for her, so let’s try to keep the peace.”

“Fine, but I want you to know I only agreed to the plum pudding so I could make Dad his fruitcake. I swear, he’s the only person in the universe who actually likes fruitcake.”

           Thankfully, for Becky’s sake, my fears of sitting on the stoop waiting for our parents to come home were unjustified. But, after spending an hour in NYC’s subway system and lugging tons of groceries, we were both ready for some wine. Who cared if it was only 10:00? It had to be Happy Hour somewhere. Of course, Mom had to make a remark about drinking before lunch. But before I could say anything, Becky touched my arm and poured a glass of wine for Mom.

           “Mom, why don’t you go watch some TV? There’s not enough room for all of us in this kitchen.”

           World War III averted, we began the long tedious, joyful, happy, exasperating, tiring, frustrating day of baking.

           “Oh my God. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use this arm again,” I moaned. “We should have rented a cement mixer to stir the batter for this plum pudding.”

           “I know. Give me another minute to finish chopping these raisins and I’ll take over for a while.”

           “Thanks. I need a break, and a cigarette. I thought getting the shit here was the hard part.”

           “Maureen, while I try to beat this batter into submission, why don’t you look for the pots for the pudding and the pan for the fruitcake. Mom thinks they’re in the top cabinets.”

           “Okay. Becky, tell me again. Why won’t Mom eat fruitcake and why won’t Dad eat plum pudding? They’re almost the same. It would make life so much easier if they could agree on one dessert.”

           “I know, but Dad doesn’t like the gooeyness - is that a word? - of plum pudding and Mom … well, Mom says that the pudding is for the ‘English’ part of her, and it would not be Christmas without it.”

           “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just hope they enjoy them since neither of us eats either of them. Eureka! I found the pots and the Bundt pan. Now let’s get that batter into these pots. They have to steam for at least three and a half hours. So, the sooner we get these started, the sooner we can start on the fruitcake.”

           “You mean all this batter is just for the plum puddings? You’re kidding, right? We have to do this all again for the fruitcake?” Becky asked, hoping I really was kidding.

           “Welcome to the wonderful world of holiday baking,” I chimed, giving Becky a deep bow.


           Many hours later, Becky and I looked like we had gone through a waterboard interrogation session. But there were two steaming plum puddings and one glistening fruitcake on the kitchen table.

           And right on cue, Dad come through the door shouting, “Okay everybody, tools down! Time for pizza, a movie, and some wine!”

           Good old Dad.


A couple of hours later, with the movie over, our stomachs full, and a bit of a buzz, thanks to the two empty bottles of wine with dinner and the one while baking, I said, “How about we sample the plum pudding?”

A deadly silence fell across the room. You would think I said, “How about we go rob the bank down the street?”

Dad and Becky transformed into stone pillars. Mom focused her icy blue-eyed stare upon me. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “That’s for Christmas dinner, not dessert after pizza. The very idea!”

“Don’t you want to try it? We made two.”

“Becky, would you make me a cup of coffee?” she said. “Maybe you can explain the meaning of tradition to your sister.”

I sighed and shook my head. “Becky, I’m going to call for an Uber. Want a ride?”

“Sure. Just let me get Mom’s coffee and I’ll be right with you.”

We went into the kitchen and I wrapped up the Christmas desserts while Becky made coffee.

About a week later, we were back at our parent’s apartment for Christmas day. At the end of dinner, the traditional desserts were finally served to all the aunts and uncles who descended every year like the plague. They all raved about them and said they were the best they had ever had. Of course, Mom praised Becky’s prowess in the kitchen and mentioned how I had helped. I shook my head and poured myself another bourbon.

Ah, yes, and the family traditions live on for yet another festive season.

December 23, 2022 18:25

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Susan Catucci
20:05 Jan 05, 2023

Ah, it wouldn't be family without some trouble, especially around the holidays. The MC was great fun, and so relatable. No wonder she switched from wine to bourbon. In my mind, I did the same. Great job and great writing. Jingle bells!


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Wendy Kaminski
06:08 Jan 01, 2023

The narrator was right, that mom seems like the problem! hah :) Also, I'm with the Dad on the fruitcake, yum! This was an entertaining story; I really enjoyed it, and great writing! Thanks for the submission!


Eileen Donovan
18:29 Jan 01, 2023

Thanks Wendy. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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