My Uncle George was the closest thing I had to a grandfather.
He was the oldest son in my mother’s family of ten children.
He thought of my dad as a little brother.
My dad had a printing company. As a side venture he sold advertising specialties... stuff that businesses gave away as marketing pieces… key chains, calendars, those plastic things to scrape snow off your windshield. Our Jewish friends called them “schotskies”.
At Christmas time a lot of businesses gave away Christmas fruitcakes under the silly misapprehension that people liked to eat fruitcakes. The businesses believed the recipients would eat fruitcake and think fondly of their business.
Dad sold the hell out of the fruitcakes so he could buy them at bargain basement prices.
Dad was one of the only people I ever met that actually liked fruitcakes so he gave them to all of our relatives for Christmas.
We were Irish Catholics. There was a lot of “propagation of the faith” going on.
My maternal grandmother had ten kids, all married, and about forty grandchildren. Then there was dad’s side. Ten more kids. Forty more grandchildren.
That’s a boat load of fruitcakes.
Dad would deliver fruitcakes to all the relatives. They would pretend to be grateful.
Uncle George would then drive around and gather up all those fruitcakes.
George would take them back to a big shed he kept out in back of his house near his dock.
The shed was a house of wonders that doubled as a boathouse and smuggling headquarters.
He called it his “office”. Uncle George did most of his best and most diabolical work and all of his fruitcake operations in the “office”.
George would open the cake tins and then he would pour rum into the tins until the cake was almost completely submerged.
After letting the cakes sit for a couple of days George poured off most of the unabsorbed rum into jars and put the lids back on the cake tins.
Uncle George called the rum in the jars “George’s Christmas Rum”.
Uncle George then delivered all the fruitcakes back to the relatives as his Christmas gifts.
Everyone welcomed George in from the cold, shared a little nip of “George’s Christmas Rum” from the jars, and thought the cakes vastly improved.
Always an innovator, one year George decided to top off the cakes with 151 proof rum instead of his regular “navy dark”.
He went out through the snow to the “office” to check on the cakes, lit a cigar, and dam near blew his ass out of the shed. He looked a little odd that year delivering the cakes sans hair or eyebrows or eyelashes.
The cakes were a little smoky but everyone hailed it as a great innovation.
I miss my Uncle George... especially at Christmas time.
Maybe it’s the fruitcakes.
So if someone gives you a Christmas fruitcake this year – take heart.
Fix that cake up with a little rum – Uncle George style.
Have a sip of “Uncle George’s Rum” and toast him for me.
Stay away from the 151.
Insightful stories, colorful commentary and subtle political incorrectness by Sean Murphy, proprietor of Beach Bistro, Eat Here and The Doctor's Office, Holmes Beach, Florida – Anna Maria Island, USA, as syndicated to The Anna Maria Islander and Anna Maria Island SUN newspapers.