This morning when he woke up my little guy Cooter came right up to the kitchen door and proclaimed quite loudly, “Let’s get this Thanksgiving started!”
That made me laugh. I mean, the turkey had been in the oven for a while, but yeah…..it’s not Thanksgiving without the “fambly folk” there. And how can your day go any way but great when it starts out with someone so excited to start the day right there by your side?
A morning of cooking after a day of baking yesterday, all with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade playing in the background. I’m a purist. We do NOT switch back and forth between channels and parades. I do have someone on remote control duty to mute or block out the picture when certain commercials come on. *sigh* I thought it was supposed to a family friendly program. Ahem.
It was perfect timing as the last of what I was preparing was finished at the same time Santa arrived at the parade. We did our traditional waving to Santa, and then we loaded up everything and headed to Mess Cat’s. We had a wonderful meal with great folks. As Mama and I used to say after Daddy died two years ago, “It was really good, contextually speaking.”
And yes, the memories came flooding back. When I made Mama’s dressing and her gravy this morning, I thought back on all the years she made it and how sometimes she would make it just to give us a special treat. Have I mentioned that cooking was her love language?
The memories took me back even further. To when I was little. We were having a holiday meal at my Granny’s house. She had cooked and cooked and the food covered the stove and the countertop. How she fit all of us in her house back then I have no idea, but she sure did. I was finally old enough to fix my own plate, so I walked down the line and noticed there were two pans of dressing. One had a lot out of it, and one only had a little. I don’t know if I felt bad for the pan no one seemed to want (yeah, I do stuff like that sometimes) or if it was just easier to get some out of that pan because of the line. Regardless, I got a helping out of the pan with more. I realized my mistake on my first bite. Mushrooms. I really don’t care for mushrooms, but I sat and ate the dressing I’d spooned out for myself and didn’t say a word, exactly as I’d been taught. On the way home I leaned forward in the backseat and proudly told Mama and Daddy how I’d eaten the dressing with mushrooms without complaining once.
Daddy laughed. And then Mama.
It was a few minutes before they could catch their breath and tell me why that was so funny.
Granny, who also showed love with food, had made a special pan of dressing for her oldest, Daddy’s older brother. Not mushrooms. No. Oyster dressing. He loved it, so she made it especially for him. Oh dear. (Daddy later mused at what my Uncle must have thought, seeing more of his dressing gone.)
I may have shared that story before, but for some reason it came to my mind as we had dinner today. Leroy, my brother-in-law, had prepared his dressing. I don’t know why dressing was so important to me this year. Maybe it’s because the past two years, even though I made many of the side dishes, Mama brought her dressing. Aub would go over the night before and help her make her dressing and gravy. They’d drive up mid-morning with all that deliciousness in tow. As has happened with each family get-together since Mama passed on in February, the thought comes to mind–“Who’s going to make (fill in the blank) now?” I knew I was going to make some dressing, and I knew Leroy was too. But I also knew neither would be hers.
And you know what?
It was okay.
Leroy’s dressing was delicious. I found out how much I really love sage when it’s added just right. And while my dressing wasn’t hers either, it’ll eat. I think I did her gravy justice, but Leroy’s turkey gravy was absolutely delectable.
It was a good day. I realize that even though she’s not here to make her dressing, she is here with me. Always. I just have to listen a little differently now. And as I was listening today, I remembered the Thanksgiving two years ago when Mama came to my house. With her dressing. And gravy. Only one week after Daddy left this earth. She came with dressing and love and time and smiles for all of us when that was probably the last thing she felt like doing. There’s a lesson in that.
Today as I finished prepping the sides–the sweet potatoes and apples, the homemade cranberry sauce, Mama’s gravy, pineapple casserole, and other things we traditionally have, I remembered the people I love who taught me to make them or whose favorites they were. And I realized that in trying new things, like Leroy’s dressing and gravy or Granny’s all those years ago, I was stepping outside my comfort zone and embracing the day. Instead of mourning that Mama is gone, today–just for today–I was able to remember without tears, and take a taste of what this new different normal is like.
And it was actually rather okay.
And tonight I’m giving thanks for that.
(Oh and just to let you know, Cooter was ready to start the day because he loves peach cobbler. He asked me to make it yesterday. And today, as he sat eating it, I heard him tell his sister and cousin, “This is the best Thanksgiving ever!”
That’s more than I could hope for.)