Our Thanksgiving celebration this year will be a quiet one; a friend will be arriving later this afternoon and we will all share a peaceful dinner together. I will be working for part of the day, but because I telecommute and we likely won’t be very busy, I’ll have time to shuttle back and forth from my desk to the kitchen as dinner is being prepared. My daughter, excellent cook that she is, will be preparing most of the meal, but I generally make the stuffing and the candied sweet potatoes, both my favorite parts of the meal.
As I got up early this morning and started chopping the onions and celery to add to the bread cubes, I was remembering my mother and my grandmother getting up at 5 a.m. many a Thanksgiving morning to prepare the dinner that was usually served in the mid afternoon. I remember begging my mother to come watch the Macy’s parade on TV, but she always said she was too busy cooking; she’d pop into the living room for a moment and check to see that we had had our orange juice and at least some cereal for breakfast, and head back into the kitchen, where wonderful aromas were starting to waft towards the living room. When we finally sat down to eat, she was exhausted and often said, “I’ve been working with this food for so long that I’m not sure I’m even hungry now!” We enjoyed the dinner but always ate too much and had to wait an hour or so for room to have either pumpkin or mince pie.
I remember the year I was in the first grade and had the measles and the flu at the same time over Thanksgiving. I was too ill even to come to the table for dinner, and my mother came to my bed to ask if I wanted anything at all to eat. I wasn’t very hungry, but I asked if I could have a piece of pumpkin pie and a sweet pickle. Without telling me I couldn’t have dessert if I didn’t have dinner first that time, she brought me a small plate with a sliver of pumpkin pie and two small sweet gherkins on the side, and sat with me as I ate; I was happy with the pie and that she was sitting there; she was happy that I was eating anything, as I hadn’t had much appetite since being ill.
When I grew up and moved away from home, sometimes I came back for Thanksgiving, sometimes we had dinner apart. Finally we lived in the same town again and getting together for Thanksgiving was easier. And then she came to live with us for six years and she finally had time to watch the Macy’s parade while I was cooking in the kitchen. “Why don’t you come watch the parade?” she’d ask plaintively, and I’d have to smile, thinking how our roles had switched over the years.
My mother spent the last three Thanksgiving Days in a nursing home, the victim of a fall and resultant head injury that nearly took her life at the time, and she never recovered enough to come home. And then she passed away two months ago, and here I stand in the kitchen chopping onions, their pungent aroma stinging my eyes, but I was already weeping anyway. I miss my mother today. I want to go back to the days when she exhausted herself making her resplendent Thanksgiving dinners. I want to thank her again for the wonderful holidays she always worked so hard to provide for us; I never told her how much I appreciated it, and appreciated her.
The last thing my mother said on the day of her passing was that she was going to go and have dinner with her mother. Then she took a nap and passed away peacefully in her sleep. So if there is an afterlife, she is likely having dinner with her mother today. My father will be there, too. And I hope they know at last how much I love and appreciate them.
This video with the wonderful song “Thanksgiving” by George Winston underscores my reflective mood today: