When I was a little girl, we traditionally celebrated Thanksgiving with my maternal grandparents and my mother’s sister and her husband. This is the last picture I have of the four of us, taken about thirty years ago. My mother is in her favorite shade of blue. I see here how alcoholism has robbed my aunt of her looks but not her incredible spirit. My beloved grandmother is almost blind from glaucoma. It was Thanksgiving, although I have no memories of that specific occasion, being newly separated and still mourning a miscarried baby. We were a family and had gathered to celebrate the holiday.
Our Thanksgivings were all about the cooking and baking, the serving and the clean-up. My dad, grandfather and uncle were around, of course, but the action was in the family kitchen. It was a hectic day there with Mama, Moo Moo and Ann, who all adored me and made sure to include me in all the preparations. I felt surrounded by their love and embraced by the good spirit of the occasion.
Every Thanksgiving morning began with stuffing the turkey and sliding it into the oven. My maternal grandmother, who I named “Moo Moo” shortly after my first birthday, always said the same thing: “Just think, women all over America are putting turkeys in their ovens for their families”.
As I grew older and began spending the holiday away from home, there would always be at a family phone call and my mother and I would recite Moo Moo’s Thanksgiving line. Actually, there wasn’t a Thanksgiving that went by without all of us saying the same thing to one another.
The years continued to roll by until we lost, first, Moo Moo. My aunt had a stroke and died over ten years ago. Four years ago, I spent Thanksgiving in a hospital room, watching my mother, dying of lung cancer, as she slid into a coma. I tried to remind her, “Just think…” but she was past hearing me that sad, lonely day.
This year, I feel quite certain that my mother will hear me talking out loud in my kitchen, reciting my grandmother’s sweet words of so long ago. And the other women in my family will be listening too.
I will have made a pie in the same dish Mama always used for our pumpkin pie, and there will be a batch of cranberry sauce in her bright blue ceramic bowl. The bowl of paper-whites that my mother always “forced” this time of year are just about to pop open. For the first time since she died, I have promised myself to use her beautiful white and gold Spode dishes. Larry will pour the wine in the family’s Scottish thistle goblets and we will toast one another, our friends, and our loved ones no longer sitting at the table with us.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and the women in your family. Love and cherish them, as they do you.