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Of all her children, Kait was the closest to Candace and had the most in common with her, but she rarely saw her. And as usual, Candace wasn’t coming home for Christmas, she was finishing an assignment in Africa. She hadn’t made it back for the holidays in years and was always severely missed. There was no important man in her life. She said she didn’t have time, which seemed to be true. Kait hoped that one of these days, Candace would find The One. She was young and there was no rush. Kait didn’t worry about that for her, only about the places she traveled to, which were dangerous and very rough. Nothing frightened Candace.

And Stephanie, Kait’s youngest, was the family computer genius. She had gone to MIT, gotten a master’s in computer science at Stanford, and fell in love with San Francisco. She got a job at Google as soon as she got her master’s, and met her boyfriend there. She was twenty-six years old and in seventh heaven at Google, and loved everything about her California life. Her siblings teased her about being a geek, and Kait had rarely seen two people better suited to each other than Stephanie and her boyfriend, Frank. They lived in Mill Valley in Marin County, in a tiny ramshackle cottage, despite their long daily commute to Google. They were crazy about each other and their high-tech jobs. She was coming home to spend Christmas with her mother, and after two days was planning to meet Frank and his family in Montana to spend a week with them. Kait couldn’t complain about that either. It was so obvious that her daughter was happy, which was what she wanted for her, and she was doing brilliantly at her job. Stephanie was never going to come back to New York either. Why would she? She had everything she wanted and had ever dreamed of right where she was.

Kait had encouraged all of them to pursue their dreams, she just hadn’t expected them to do it so successfully and so far afield from where they’d grown up, and to plant their roots so deeply in other places and different lives. She never made an issue of it, but she missed having her children nearby. But in today’s world, with people more mobile and less firmly anchored, they often moved far away from their families to establish their careers. She respected her children for it, and to avoid dwelling on their absence, she stayed busy herself. Very busy. It made her column even more important to her. She filled her life with work, and was diligent about it, and loved what she did. Kait was happy in her life, and there was a certain satisfaction in knowing she had brought her children up to work hard to achieve their goals. All of them had found rewarding work, and two of them had found partners they loved, who were good people and the right mates for them.

Kait herself had been married twice, the first time right out of college to her children’s father. Scott Lindsay had been handsome, charming, fun loving, and young. They had a great time together, and it had taken six years and three children to figure out that they had none of the same values and very little in common, except that they both came from old, established New York families. Scott had an enormous trust fund and Kait finally realized that he had no intention of ever working and didn’t have to. He wanted to play for the rest of his life, and Kait thought everyone should work, no matter what their circumstances. Her indomitable grandmother had shown her that.

She and Scott had parted ways right after Stephanie was born, when he announced that he wanted the spiritual experience of living with Buddhist monks in Nepal for a year, was thinking of joining an expedition to climb Everest after that, and thought that the mystical beauty of India would be a great place to bring up their kids, after his adventures. They divorced without animosity or bitterness after he’d been gone a year, and he thought it was for the best too. He stayed away for four years and was a stranger to his children by the time he got back, and then moved to the South Pacific, where he married a beautiful Tahitian woman and had three more children. He died after a brief tropical illness, twelve years after the divorce from Kait.

She had sent the children to visit him in Tahiti, but he had very little interest in them, and they didn’t want to go back after a few times. He had simply moved on, and had been a poor choice of mate for a husband. Everything that had made him charming and seductive in college made him anything but later on, once she grew up and he didn’t. He never really had and didn’t want to. She was sad for her children when he died, more so than they were. He had spent so little time with them and showed so little interest. They had almost no Of all her children, Kait was the closest to Candace and had the most in common with her, but she rarely saw her. And as usual, Candace wasn’t coming home for Christmas, she was finishing an assignment in Africa. She hadn’t made it back for the holidays in years and was always severely missed. There was no important man in her life. She said she didn’t have time, which seemed to be true. Kait hoped that one of these days, Candace would find The One. She was young and there was no rush. Kait didn’t worry about that for her, only about the places she traveled to, which were dangerous and very rough. Nothing frightened Candace.

And Stephanie, Kait’s youngest, was the family computer genius. She had gone to MIT, gotten a master’s in computer science at Stanford, and fell in love with San Francisco. She got a job at Google as soon as she got her master’s, and met her boyfriend there. She was twenty-six years old and in seventh heaven at Google, and loved everything about her California life. Her siblings teased her about being a geek, and Kait had rarely seen two people better suited to each other than Stephanie and her boyfriend, Frank. They lived in Mill Valley in Marin County, in a tiny ramshackle cottage, despite their long daily commute to Google. They were crazy about each other and their high-tech jobs. She was coming home to spend Christmas with her mother, and after two days was planning to meet Frank and his family in Montana to spend a week with them. Kait couldn’t complain about that either. It was so obvious that her daughter was happy, which was what she wanted for her, and she was doing brilliantly at her job. Stephanie was never going to come back to New York either. Why would she? She had everything she wanted and had ever dreamed of right where she was.

Kait had encouraged all of them to pursue their dreams, she just hadn’t expected them to do it so successfully and so far afield from where they’d grown up, and to plant their roots so deeply in other places and different lives. She never made an issue of it, but she missed having her children nearby. But in today’s world, with people more mobile and less firmly anchored, they often moved far away from their families to establish their careers. She respected her children for it, and to avoid dwelling on their absence, she stayed busy herself. Very busy. It made her column even more important to her. She filled her life with work, and was diligent about it, and loved what she did. Kait was happy in her life, and there was a certain satisfaction in knowing she had brought her children up to work hard to achieve their goals. All of them had found rewarding work, and two of them had found partners they loved, who were good people and the right mates for them.

Kait herself had been married twice, the first time right out of college to her children’s father. Scott Lindsay had been handsome, charming, fun loving, and young. They had a great time together, and it had taken six years and three children to figure out that they had none of the same values and very little in common, except that they both came from old, established New York families. Scott had an enormous trust fund and Kait finally realized that he had no intention of ever working and didn’t have to. He wanted to play for the rest of his life, and Kait thought everyone should work, no matter what their circumstances. Her indomitable grandmother had shown her that.

She and Scott had parted ways right after Stephanie was born, when he announced that he wanted the spiritual experience of living with Buddhist monks in Nepal for a year, was thinking of joining an expedition to climb Everest after that, and thought that the mystical beauty of India would be a great place to bring up their kids, after his adventures. They divorced without animosity or bitterness after he’d been gone a year, and he thought it was for the best too. He stayed away for four years and was a stranger to his children by the time he got back, and then moved to the South Pacific, where he married a beautiful Tahitian woman and had three more children. He died after a brief tropical illness, twelve years after the divorce from Kait.

She had sent the children to visit him in Tahiti, but he had very little interest in them, and they didn’t want to go back after a few times. He had simply moved on, and had been a poor choice of mate for a husband. Everything that had made him charming and seductive in college made him anything but later on, once she grew up and he didn’t. He never really had and didn’t want to. She was sad for her children when he died, more so than they were. He had spent so little time with them and showed so little interest. They had almost no She was planning to cook the turkey herself on Christmas Eve, as she always did, and would have all their favorite treats on hand. She had ordered a Yule log at the bakery, and had already bought Christmas pudding from a British grocery store she liked. She had Bombay Sapphire gin for Tom, some excellent wine for all of them, vegetarian dishes planned for Stephanie, and the right kiddie treats and breakfast cereal in pastel colors for her granddaughters. And she still had to wrap all their gifts. It was going to be a busy two days until they arrived. Thinking about it, she smiled as she got into a cab for the ride uptown to the Christmas tree lot near her apartment. It was beginning to feel like Christmas, and even more so as it started to snow.

Kait found a handsome tree that looked about the right height for her ceilings, and they promised to deliver it later that night when the lot closed. She had the stand she needed, and the decorations and lights. The snow was sticking to her red hair and lashes as she picked the tree out and then walked the four blocks to her apartment. People looked festive and happy with Christmas Eve only two days away. She had also picked out a wreath for the door, and some branches she could use to decorate the fireplace mantel in the living room. After she took off her coat, she started to unpack the boxes of decorations she had used for years and her children still loved. Some of them, from their childhood, were a little tired and battered, but those were their favorites, and if she failed to put them on the tree, they noticed and complained. The souvenirs from their early years were important to them. It had been a time filled with love and warmth.

She lived in the same apartment she’d had when they were growing up. It was a generous size for New York, and been perfect for them when she bought it twenty years before. There were two decent-sized bedrooms, one of which was hers, a living room and dining room, a big country-style kitchen where everyone congregated, and, since it was an old building, three maids’ rooms behind it, which had been her children’s bedrooms when they were young, and were big enough for them as kids. The second bedroom next to hers she used as a guest room now when needed, and an office for herself. It had been the children’s playroom when they were growing up. She was planning to turn over her bedroom to Tom and his wife while they were there for their brief visit. Stephanie would have the guest room/office. Tom’s two little girls would have one of the former maids’ rooms their father and aunts had grown up in, and Kait was going to sleep in Candace’s childhood room, since she wouldn’t be home. She hadn’t moved to a smaller apartment because she loved having enough space for her children and her granddaughters to visit. They hadn’t all come home at the same time in several years, but they might again one day. And after twenty years, she loved the apartment, and it was home. A housecleaner came to tidy it twice a week, and the rest of the time, she fended for herself and cooked her own meals, or picked something up on the way home.

With the salary she made from Woman’s Life, and money her grandmother had left her, Kait could have afforded a slightly more luxurious life, but chose not to. She didn’t want more than she had, and had never been inclined to show off. Her grandmother had taught her the value of money, what it could do, how ephemeral it could be, and the importance of hard work. Constance Whittier had been a remarkable woman who had taught Kait everything she knew about life, ideals she still lived by and in turn had demonstrated to her children, although Constance had been less successful with her own children, or maybe just not as lucky. She had saved the family from disaster more than eighty years before, and had been a legend in her time, and set an example for them all of resourcefulness, sheer grit, business acumen, and courage. She had been Kait’s only role model growing up. From an illustrious aristocratic family herself, Constance watched her own family and the Whittiers lose their entire fortunes at the same time in the Crash of ’29. She’d been young, married, and had four young children at the time, including a new baby, Kait’s father, Honor. They had lived in a golden world of enormous houses, vast estates, unlimited wealth, beautiful gowns, spectacular jewels, and armies of help, all of which vanished and turned to ashes in the crash, which destroyed so many lives.

Unable to face what would come next, Constance’s husband committed suicide, as their entire world was liquidated, and she was left alone with four young children and no money. She sold what she could, they had lost the rest, and she moved with her children to a tenement apartment on the Lower East Side and tried to get work to feed them. No one in her family or immediate circle had ever worked, they had inherited their fortunes. She had no skills other than being a charming hostess, a beautiful young woman, a good mother, and a devoted wife. She thought of taking in sewing, but had no skill for it. So instead she did the only thing she could think of and knew how to do. She made cookies, which she loved doing for her own children.

They’d had a fleet of cooks and servants to conjure up whatever delicacies they wished, but Constance had always enjoyed making cookies for her children, when the cook would let her into the kitchen. Her parents’ cook had taught her to make cookies as a child, and it served her well. She began making them in the one-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side. And taking the children with her, she brought her cookies to food stores and restaurants in plain boxes, where she wrote on them “Mrs. Whittier’s Cookies for Kids,” and sold them to whoever would buy them. She got an instant positive reaction, not just from children, but adults, and grocery stores and restaurants began to place orders with her. She could barely keep up production for the orders, and what she earned helped to sustain her and the children in their new life, where survival and making enough money to support her children were constant concerns. She added cakes then, and began researching recipes she remembered from Austria, Germany, and France, and the orders kept growing. She saved her money and within a year was able to rent a small bakery in the neighborhood, and continued to fill the ever-increasing orders.

Her cakes were extraordinary, her cookies said to be the best. Other restaurants farther uptown heard of her, and added their orders to her first customers’, and she was soon supplying some of the best restaurants in New York with her baked goods, and had to hire women to help her. Ten years later, she had the most successful commercial baking business in New York, which all began in her tiny kitchen, in desperation, to support her children. Her business increased in the war years, when women joined the workforce and had no time to bake at home. Constance had a factory by then, and in 1950, twenty years after she began, she sold the business to General Foods for a fortune that subsequently helped support three generations of her family and was still doing so. The trust she had established had provided a nest egg for each of them that allowed them to pursue an education, buy a home, or start a business venture. She had set an example to them all, born of necessity and her own resourcefulness and refusal to be beaten.

Constance’s sons had proven to be a disappointment to her, only too happy to ride the coattails of their mother’s fortuitous success and be idle themselves. She admitted later that she had spoiled them, and one of them had been unlucky. Her oldest son had had a passion for fast cars and faster women, and died in a car accident before he married or had children. Kait’s father, Honor, had been lazy and self-indulgent, drank and gambled, and married a beautiful young woman who ran off with another man when her daughter Kait was a year old. Kait’s mother disappeared somewhere in Europe and was never heard from again. Honor died a year later, somewhat mysteriously in a brothel while traveling in Asia, when Kait was two and left with nannies in New York. Her grandmother had taken her in and raised her, and they adored each other.

Constance’s older daughter had been a talented writer, and had written successfully under the pen name of Nadine Norris. She died in her late twenties of a brain tumor, childless and unmarried. And Constance’s younger daughter had married a Scotsman, lived a quiet life in Glasgow, and had nice children who had been kind to her until her death at eighty.

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