As we get ready for holidays, memories filter from my past. Nostalgia creeps through brain waves and reminds me of my blessings, losses, loves, and beginnings.
Thanksgiving as a child meant it was closer to Christmas.It meant eating my mom’s hot buttered rolls, southern style sweet potatoes, and key lime pie. I didn’t have time to stuff myself because kids are too busy playing and laughing with cousins and friends.
As I grew older, Thanksgiving meant coming home from Ohio University to eat my mother’s gourmet cooking. I rejoiced at the delicious cornucopia of aromas. The dressing was fluffy and perfectly seasoned as was the gravy that smothered the heavily buttered mashed potatoes. Thinking about the sweet potatoes and cranberry salad still makes my mouth water. Admittedly, I selfishly looked forward to Thanksgiving break to devour scrumptious food and sleep. When I awakened, I‘d go see high school friends to catch up on their lives and share my latest news. Since we had no cell phones or tablets, we had a backup of stories that needed to be shared. I did little toward making the food or spending time with my parents. I was twenty and read to trot.
As a young mom, my focus and understanding of Thanksgiving began to change. It was about setting an artful table, and planning and cooking the entire meal. I rushed the little lads from the kitchen to play with dad and worked laboriously trying to create a tasty meal as my mom had done through the years. I invited folks who had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving and relatives who would drive to Muncie to spend the holiday with us. I worked all week cleaning, cooking, and preparing a special meal. I realized all the standing, peeling, baking, and cooking my mom had done for me all those years was exhausting. I understood the pressure of getting every dish to come out on time, together, piping hot, and delicious. Thanksgiving meant a lot of hard work, but it was worth it when I heard the “yums” from those sitting around our table, and the smiling faces of my husband and sons. Men waddled into the living room to watch the Detroit Lions, children played board games, and I was back in the kitchen cleaning up the mess with help from a couple of my aunts.
As a mom of college kids, I cooked furiously to provide the dinner that fulfilled the guys’ expectations. I couldn’t wait to see them, hug them, and hear of their adventures abroad or at the Naval Academy. I was obsessed to make the perfect meal. They, like I, came home, stuffed themselves with turkey, dressing and a boatload of gravy. They inhaled pumpkin and pecan pies like a vacuum sucks up dirt. Then, off they went to see their friends and catch up on what had been happening. Den helped me clean up the mess, as adults chose to snooze, play cards, or watch football. The cycle was the same. I understood but wanted more time with our sons. I am sure my mom wanted more time with me too. But, soon the holiday was over, and the guys returned to college.
My focus has changed through the years. It is important to be a part of serving the less fortunate and providing food products for families so other mom’s can cook. I pray for the needy and hungry. I understand now that Thanksgiving was so much more than about my perfect meal. Many had no meals, no fancy table, no kids that returned to them for a family time. The elderly have an institutional turkey dinner in the facilities where they live. Dinner is humdrum and tasteless unless there is an unexpected visitor or invitation by a family member. These elderly ladies yearn to return to their kitchens to mash potatoes, grind fresh cranberries, and be exhausted from serving.
I understand that I have almost made the full cycle of Thanksgiving. Den and I are the older aunt and uncle invited to dinner. I will bring pies and rejoice with younger cousins about their tales of travel, hear the stories of how illness has altered the lives of my beloved aunts and uncles, laugh with cousins about all our genetic flaws, and reminisce on all the wonderful Thanksgivings in our past. I am thankful for all the memories of sitting down and giving thanks for our lives, family, friends, and the mother, who taught me the importance of sacrificing, cooking and creating a welcoming table so loved ones could come and share the day.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving in the cycle where you are this holiday.