Written by M.J.C
Mom decided that she would prepare the entire Thanksgiving meal herself, stay home with her own family, and relax on the holiday for once.
Up to this point Mom and our family visited her in-laws for Thanksgiving every year. And it wasn’t just Thanksgiving. It was Christmas, Easter, the 4th of July, birthdays, and various church related anniversaries and special occasions.
This year was going to be different.
It was the 1970’s and Mom wanted to do her own thing and stay home. She said the in-laws and others were invited, of course, and that this was a chance for them to be the guests and to relax while Mom did all the preparation, cooking, and clean-up. She was excited, she said, because she was a good cook and knew how to prepare all the dishes – some with her own twist – but most others in the traditional sense.
After a few weeks of back and forth Mom’s idea was shot down and plans were being made to do what we always did and go to her in-laws/our grandparent’s home as we always did.
But a day or so later Mom came home from grocery shopping and as I started helping her put food away she calmly said, “We are staying home for Thanksgiving; I’m cooking the Thanksgiving meal.”
“You are?!? Do you know how to cook all those things? And the desserts? The turkey? Dressing? Potato salad!?”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, and of course. I make the potato salad anyway, she said, and I make all the other dishes all year long. Child, please,” she ended with laugh.
There were more disagreements but Mom had made up her mind and that was that. I was excited and didn’t hesitate to say so, combatting some of the comments made around the house by my brothers that they wanted to still go to our grandparents and that they were gonna miss all the good stuff.
Undeterred by the comments, Mom just kept planning and getting ready. She even said she’d invited some of her family and that she’d hoped they’d show up.
The day before Thanksgiving Mom was busy in the kitchen chopping vegetables and working hard. She had that look of determination that looked good on her. She was beautiful, as always, and her body was in a state of constant movement that was hard to look away from. I never looked away from her anyway when we were together, but this seemed different somehow.
She made small talk and asked me to help do small tasks but mostly she asked me to go outside and play. I didn’t want to, though, preferring to just sit and watch her. Most of the time she’d let me but not this time. She kicked me out and she continued preparing through the night and after our family went to bed.
It was now Thanksgiving and Mom was up early and cooking all day, while we played outside building up our appetites and eagerly waiting for dinner. By now there was no more talk of missing out on our grandparent’s meals because the house smelled like Thanksgiving.
Mom was happy that her favorite uncle and his wife came over. Mom loved him most of all her uncles and he loved her. They came dressed up – suit and hat for him, beautiful dress and hat for her. They stayed a while but said they couldn’t stay long, or even eat much, since they had to go home for their own Thanksgiving dinner for their kids, Mom’s cousins.
Mom was happy they’d come and she and her uncle and aunt had a good long hug before they left.
It was late-afternoon when Mom came outside to tell us dinner was ready.
All the friends dispersed and my brothers and I went inside.
The meal was laid out on the table. All the dishes here there: Beautiful golden brown turkey, dressing that smelled delightful, greens that were steaming hot, mashed potatoes that were creamy and just lumpy enough, green beans, that I would ignore, dirty rice that would taste as good as grandma’s, her famous potato salad, and of course macaroni and cheese that had the crust that was required.
There was sweet potato pie, and a bunt cake of some sort.
But mostly it was a golden brown turkey that looked and smelled wonderful that set the whole table off and drew the most attention.
Mom asked us to clean our hands up and we did and once we got around the table, Mom said a very brief blessing and we started eating.
It was a beautiful meal. Every part of it was delicious. I asked Mom if she could cook like this every day and she just laughed and smiled.
Mom was having a moment and her smile was bright and magnetic. She didn’t gloat though, preferring to let her three hungry boys who were devouring every morsel tell the story for her.
There were few leftovers that Thanksgiving.
In the years that followed we’d spend more Thanksgivings at our grandparents and they were wonderful, though none matched that one perfect Thanksgiving when Mom prepared every dish by herself.