Heart and Soul

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gobble Til You Wobble

While Thanksgiving is unquestionably a holiday all about the food, my personal turkey day traditions also include a focus outside the realm of, "Gobble ‘til you wobble."

Like many Americans, I spend days preparing my dining table with freshly polished silver, sparkling crystal, and fine china plates on which to serve our family’s treasured recipes. Yet I also find that each Thanksgiving, my day is defined by memories of two special people---my former mother-in-law and my mother---both women of determination and common sense, who occupy a special place in my heart, and in my Thanksgivings Past.

My former mother-in-law could easily be defined as a hard headed and tough German woman with a heart of gold. From the time I first met her in 1967, it was clear that family was her life’s sole focus. One of my strongest memories of her familial devotion occurred in 1971, when my former husband and I were new parents spending Thanksgiving 500 miles away from home.

That year, not only did my mother-in-law load her two younger sons into the car and undertake the long trek to spend the Thanksgiving Holiday with us, she also brought the entire meal with her. Yes, that’s right. From a 20 pound turkey to mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and of course, her famous squash, every element of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner arrived completely prepared and, amazingly, still warm!

Being young at the time, I principally appreciated the dinner for its face value of excellent food and nourishment. Yet now, some thirty-four years later, I more fully understand and value the loving effort my former mother-in-law made that Thanksgiving, in bringing family and food to our doorstep. The memory also serves as an enduring reminder of the importance of family above all else. And for that constant tweak, I am eternally indebted.

As for my mom, she was a whole different story. She was a tough independent businesswoman who, while she loved her family, was also satisfied with the pleasure of her own company on holidays and everyday. However, on Thanksgiving Eve 1998, her solitary lifestyle changed.

Mom had been suffering from a variety of ailments for some time and that November the varied diseases and conditions finally got the best of her aging body. As a result, a doctor admitted her to a Senior Care Facility a week before Thanksgiving. However, the first time I walked through the doors, I knew I couldn’t leave her there.

So, that dark and rainy Thanksgiving Eve, I packed up my mother’s meager belongings, bundled her into my car and brought her home to live with my husband and me. Little did I know she would die a short four months later, and further, that my memories of her sitting at the kitchen table that Thanksgiving Morning---blanket shawled around her shoulders, glasses askew on her nose, polishing rag in one hand and silver serving pieces before her --- would be one of the most long lasting and affecting memories of the Thanksgiving Holiday--- and of my life.

So now each year as I rise early on Thanksgiving Morn and begin last minute holiday preparations, I hold a little gathering in the kitchen. Quietly and respectfully I call together the spirits of my mother and my former mother-in-law. I thank them for all the valuable life lessons that they've taught me and for being women of distinct value and honor. And I ask that they to continue to watch over our family and care for us on Thanksgiving and everyday.
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