Suzan Colón's family stories helped her through
the rough times when she was laid off from her dream job at a magazine, because of the economy. But, this beautiful book, Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times, contains wisdom to help so many of us through these hard times.
Like her grandmother, and mother, before her, as well as previous generations, when Colón hit a rough spot, she felt "the need to cut back and hunker down." With her grandmother Matilda's (Nana) recipes and writings, and her mother's storytelling as they prepared dinner, Suzan found inspiration for getting through 2009, "when over half a million people have been laid off, banks have gone under, and huge corporations are begging the government for money." She couldn't ask her grandparents how they survived the Depression and the rationing of World War II. But, as she said, she had Nana's files, "proof that we've been through worse than this and have come out okay." It's proof, and recipes, that Colón shares with her readers.
All of the recipes and family anecdotes provided inspiration for Suzan as she cut back, hoped for jobs, studied how her family survived. And, she knew her Nana had dreams that she gave up in order to provide a living. She wanted to stay in school, and go to college, but during the Depression, she was the one who provided a livelihood for four people. She longed to write, and her recipes, poems, and comments are included in her granddaughter's book. Colón knows that dreams sometimes must be put aside for the sake of survival.
But, the most moving part of her book also inspired the title. For there were times the women in the family, down to their last dollars, reached out for beauty in order to survive - spending the weekly money on beautiful vases, or buying cherries in winter. These are Colón's "stories of how our family defied poverty not of the wallet but of the soul."
Suzan Colón may have learned lessons from her family, but she was generous in sharing those lessons of love in Cherries in Winter. There is inspiration, and hope in the book, for all of us in these difficult times.
As a final note, I knew Colón's book was something special when I read the poem her grandmother, Matilda Kallaher, wrote. It's a poem that speaks to me, explains my philosophy of life.
Without my illusions
I should die
Who cannot face things
As they really are
But always seek
The shooting star,
The Christmas Tree
And only see
What I want to see.
- Matilda Kallaher
Suzan Colón's website is www.cherriesinwinter.com
Cherries in Winter: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colón. Doubleday, ©2009. ISBN 9780385532525 (hardcover), 224p.