Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The Thanksgiving Stones
Growing up, I loved Thanksgiving. My parents always got up early so Dad could help Mom stuff the turkey and slide it into the overn. By the time my siblings and I got up, the smell of the turkey and dressing was already spreading through our two story house. I loved to help my mom in the kitchen and was often asked to stuff the celery with cream cheese and stir the salad. The menu was simple, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans and some kind of fruit salad. My mom didn't go overboard with a lot of different foods, but what she fixed was delicious and plentiful. We would always spend some time outdoors and the weather was usually cool and overcast (at least in my memories!).
When I became a wife, I wanted to continue with the same sort of traditions that I had as a child. Randy and my first Thanksgiving as a married couple was anything but joyful. Newly pregnant, I found cooking a less than pleasant task. Randy's mother had died the summer before, at the age of 46. I was determined, in my naive way, to help my husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law have some sort of happy Thanksgiving experience. Their grief was raw and exposed that holiday. My cooking skills were just as raw. To say I was "out of my element" would be an understatement. I had always helped in the kitchen, but to prepare a turkey with all the side dishes was way over my culinary ability. To make matters worse, Randy's mom, Berniece, had always put on an annual Thanksgiving spread that was fit for royalty. She made all of her family's favorites, including German Chocolate Cake, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and numerous salads and vegetables. She cooked for days in preparation of the meal.
I won't bore you with all of the details, but my meal included a turkey not quite done, a pumpkin pie not quite right and canned biscuits. The best thing you can say about that supper was that I had good intentions!
Fast forward a few years, and my family was again faced with the death of a mother, my mother to be exact. The first Thanksgiving after Mom died, my sister, Debbie and I got together and decided that we needed to create some new traditions and not dwell on the ones we were missing so desperately. My mother, Elizabeth, had died the February before at the age of 52 from breast cancer. We had small children, our brother was in college and our father was deep in the grieving process. Debbie suggested that we scrap the traditional foods, and fix all new dishes. She had a woman's magazine with recipes for a Thanksgiving meal and we cooked every one of those dishes. And they were awful. I can't remember exactly what they were, except for the bread, which was some sort of black rye. . . I threw more food away that year than I ever have. No one wanted any leftovers. But we were together, we laughed and cried while doing the meal preparation, and we somehow made it through.
There have been many memorable and joyful Thanksgivings since that year. Some with extended family, some with a very small group of us. There were the years the kids were home from college, the years that we added a daughter in law to the table, then two grandchildren, and then we added our son-in -law, all joyful times for us. And I won't forget last year when I turned the kithcen over to my daughter and daughter in law because I was recovering from surgery. The meal could not have been better!
Over the years, I have honed my cooking skills and have found a few family favorites that I stick to every year.
As I get older, I find deep meaning in celebrating all the blessings and joys we have in our lives. Blessings as simple as a roof over our heads and food on the table to the great blessings of healthy and happy loved ones at the table.
I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, the family, the time spent in preparation and the time spent cleaning up. I love that my "girls" and I clean off the table and spread out the Black Friday ads. I love that we all stop and share what we are thankful for and usually cry a little and laugh a little as we go.
This year, I decided to participate in daily Facebook posts, during November, sharing for what I am thankful. I started off strong, but then began to have some second thoughts about what I was sharing. My reluctance reminded me of the stones we have around our house. My grandchildren love looking through these rocks and picking out their favorites. They often come to me and ask me to pick which rock I like best. Instead of selecting a favorite, I find myself pointing out the unique and special qualitites of the different stones. Maybe one has a pinkish tint, while another sparkles in the sun. Sometimes they have smooth, rounded sides, while others reveal layers of different colors. They insist that I tell them which one I like the "very bestest". Oh the pressure! Like the many blessings that I have in my life, each stone is special and unique. This year on Thanksgiving, I am going to think about the rocks and the blessings that surround my home. I am going to be grateful for each and every one of them and their unique qualities. I hope you have a blessed and special Thanksgiving, full of memories and blessings!