Thanksgiving always leads me to think about holidays of the past. While I’m preparing food, my thoughts turn to my grandmother who was the self-proclaimed matriarch of the family. Whether or not she actually was is undetermined when you’re one of many independent women in the family, but we let her believe it.
My grandmother – AKA “Betty Baby” when we wanted to make her laugh. She kept those fabulous legs until the day she left this world.
My grandmother didn’t socialize much outside of the family after my grandfather passed away. Holidays were important to her. In particular, Thanksgiving was important to her. She proclaimed Thanksgiving to be “her” holiday, and, at the height of 5’2″ with eyes of blue, she was a dominating force. The look on her face while in preparation mode was one of determination, and walking into the kitchen made a feeling come over me as though I was being more of a hindrance than a help.
I don’t think it was just my grandmother’s insistence that had us go to her house for Thanksgiving. When someone is a great cook and WANTS to take on the task of Thanksgiving, who can deny her? Hey, if you want to take on the work, then, by all means, help yourself to the task of feeding 13 people.
Although my grandmother only had two daughters, with each of the daughters having four children, the gathering at Thanksgiving was quite large. My grandmother would set out some small appetizers to hold us over and wait for the meal. There were a few pies made. Over the years, the table varied when things were brought by other family members. Take, for instance, my mother making a rainbow Jell-O salad which has now become some sort of requirement for Thanksgiving. This Jell-O salad has 12 layers….which also means that it’s a bit time consuming to make and easy to mess up.
I always noted that my grandmother served a lot of vegetables. I asked her why at one point, and she told me it was due to her grandfather who raised her. He had a vegetable cart where he sold fresh vegetables daily, and she had a passion for them due to how she was raised.
She made a stuffing that I loved, and when my mother introduced a cornbread sausage stuffing, my grandmother continued to make HER stuffing for me. Sometimes, I think that was a source of pride with her…that I preferred her stuffing over what my mother brought and that it was the only stuffing I wanted. I remember watching her tear up the bread, and sprinkle on the seasonings. There was no recipe, just taste testing to get it right. Later on, I ventured to try my mother’s stuffing and ended up taking both types of stuffing on my plate.
As I prepared food for my family, I looked around at the enormous amount of food that I made and that only five members of my family were here. I was so thankful that I had them with me. At the same time, I longed for the days of being a kid again and having a large family surrounding me for the holidays. I missed seeing those moments of my grandmother in the kitchen…back in her heyday of being full of life. I wondered, for a moment, if she might have been granted a moment with us from the great beyond for “her” holiday.
Our Thanksgiving dinner with the infamous 12 layer Jell-O salad at the end.
With my sisters scattered across the country, my parents in a faraway state, and my eldest daughter with too short a vacation to come home from graduate school, I sat down and thought how great it would’ve been if they all could have been here. Then, I thought…maybe, one day, they will be…and, MAYBE…one day I’m going to be the grandmother with Thanksgiving being “her” holiday. After all, I’m a mother and already feel like it IS my holiday.
The best Thanksgiving and best holiday consist of having the people you love around you. Life is constantly evolving with new family members and additions. Perhaps, one day, my house will be the one where I have more than 13 people to feed and a house full of family. I can’t think of anything that could possibly make Thanksgiving better. I hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving full of love and memories.