This year, I realized I had turned into my mother. I vowed that I would never say “if I can just get through the holidays …” But I did. I have felt this way for the last eight holiday seasons. I gritted my teeth and I soldiered on. There was no joy in it. Too many family members gone; our center of gravity lost. Something shook me into awareness of my grim holiday mindset, and I am committed to shaking it off this year.
Though I don’t have “the big house,” I am, by virtue of having offspring, the keeper of the traditions for this holiday. I hold the stuffing bowl, the turkey platter, and the special gravy spoon. I teach my children to make the stuffing that my mother and grandmother and great-grandmother made. Who knows, our stuffing’s lineage may reach farther back than that. When I cook the sausages and mix the seasoning, I am connected to all those women who came before me. I feel their presence, making sure I get it right. Making the gravy is serious business in my family. Another time-honored method is used, but I couldn’t write a recipe for it. It’s more art than science and it takes years of watching the craft to get it right. My eldest dutifully stands by the stove accepting responsibility for the torch that will one day be passed. She is flanked by relatives who hover over me sure that I will mess it up. Sometimes I do, but I always blame the turkey.
As adults, Thanksgiving eve was the most special time in my parents’ house. My only sister, one of my brothers and I would arrive there and take over the kitchen. We would crank up the stereo and sing while we prepared all the vegetables and desserts for the meal the next day. None of us needed to speak. We knew our parts. Those were golden moments. Once, I stood back and drank it in and felt how beautiful it was. I cherish that moment now.
I am grateful for the traditions that have been passed on to me, and for the children that are willing to accept them. I am looking forward to my daughter and her friend baking pies on Wednesday, most likely with musical accompaniment. Maybe her brother and sister will join in. I’ll be cooking too, but I hope that I will take a moment and cherish the scene of traditions that live on.