Thanksgiving is upon us. Last year I couldn’t think of Thanksgiving because my Mother just passed away. A year later the holiday brings so many memories of her, particularly the Thanksgiving Dinner that she loved to prepare. Like a few times in the past, this year I will make another Thanksgiving Dinner and as usual when I make a Thanksgiving dinner it will be far less irresistible than Momma’s ever were. I am a trained Chef and a darned good cook, but to make a turkey and all the trimmings is something Momma was stellar at and I barely competent to compare.
As a small child on the farm I always enjoyed watching Momma stuff the turkey, but more importantly I knew her dressing mixture was going to be heavenly just as soon as that turkey was done. Momma’s turkey, as well as the dressing brought incredible wafts of butter, sage and browning turkey as the hours passed waiting for it to be done. Momma never rushed her turkeys. In fact she got up early just to get it in and be able to watch over it and patiently baste it when necessary, making it moist and tender. Oh as I write I can smell and I remember the taste. I remember the leftovers and the unparalleled turkey sandwiches I could concoct from the slices of light and dark meat.
Momma was at her best on the holidays. She loved cooking but more importantly she enjoyed making dinner for her family. As in all families we had our traditional trimmings, each of course better than the next, each a little more fattening than the last, but it was worth every calorie. As I grew up I learned to space myself just a little so that I didn’t get that full achy, sleepy feeling from the triptafan. Yet, regardless of trying, the time arrived that made me realize that if I didn’t stop eating I would surely bust. Unfortunately, when I woke during the night I always sneaked out to the kitchen for another bite of that heavenly turkey.
The last Thanksgiving my Mother orchestrated was just two years before she died. Momma had an idea and asked if I minded that she planned the table and the menu. The next days following her request were days filled with surprises, shopping, memories and work for her. At the time she was still able to go shopping, although bound to her wheel chair. She had her list ready for shopping. First to Joann’s Crafts and Hobby Lobby to see what was new in fabrics and decor. Momma made her selection for the tablecloth and skirt, then on to deciding just which faceplate would make the table look the way she wanted. While at the two shops she also chose leaves, a wonderful metal turkey and other items for the centerpiece. During that little escapade Momma asked how she could make a big cookie for everyone, something once again that was goood, but also pretty. At first I was a little confused and asked if she wanted this for the dessert. No, that wasn’t the idea she had. Rather than just give them a cookie Momma wanted it to be wrapped and placed at the table space in a clear bag.
After more shopping for food Momma arrived home ready to work. That was Momma, but I cautioned her that we had plenty of time and tomorrow, after she rested we could begin. The next day after, barely past the time I got Momma up and in her wheelchair, I was reminded she needed to start working on her special cookies. Momma, with her right side paralyzed, in her wheelchair was determined to make the cookie dough. I placed the mixer on a low stand by her, brought all the ingredients and in a fair amount of time she was ready for me to roll and cut the dough for her.
Nearly a year ago I began this post. As I reached the end of the paragraph above the line I stopped. I couldn’t continue writing. The memories became to intense remember that wonderful day. I have kept the tablecloth and all the decorations, yet to this day I am unable to look at them with out missing her.
Last years Thanksgiving was fine. I made a turkey and all the trimmings and as I sat at the head of the table I asked myself why did I do all of this because my guests could never know or understand the Thanksgivings from my past. They were special to me and I knew that I did not like the idea of forging a new Thanksgiving of my own, particularly when most of the people I could have for guests only see it as another year.
I vowed that night that I would never try a Thanksgiving Dinner again. This year I will be at my sister’s in Illinois. If anyone can come close to the family dinner I enjoy so much is my sister. I know that Thanksgiving Day will be and taste like it always did.
And then I shall return from Florida and prepare a Christmas/Hannukah Dinner, especially for my dear sister-in-law, who has become a new person in my life who believes in me as much as my Mother. Shirley, even though Jewish, understands that for me Christmas is a gay wonderful time. It was significant in my family, yet held a different position of importance. Thanksgiving Momma always prepared and planned. Christmas was a time when we all brought a bit of us to the day and dinner to show our love for each other. So, when Shirley once said to me I would love, just once to see a big white Christmas tree with sparkling packages under it and a house all decorated for Christmas, there wasn’t much hesitation to say to her, “This year Shirley will be your own White Christmas.”