Tag Archives: thanksgiving

a sweet contradiction

The holiday season harbors a sweet contradiction.  We gather around full tables.  We feast until our stomachs protest, until we collapse on the couch in a food coma.  We eat and we drink and we enjoy the bounties of the year, the gifts of our family and friends.  It feels good, so very, very good.

And it is a simultaneously a season of longing. quiet moments masking an internal cacophony of regret and longing and grief and sadness.  We miss the ones who are far away, the ones we have lost.  The ones that are gone, the ones that were never here. We want things to be different, we want what we cannot have. 

This Thanksgiving I remembered my friend, who died 17 years ago in a car crash. She has now been dead as long as she was alive. I was mourning her absence, feeling the echoing hole that her departure left inside of me so many years ago, and in that moment of missing her a turkey vulture soared above me, the Great Purifier. Call it God, call it science, but there is a mysterious force around us and above us.  Something which takes the dead and decaying and turns it into life, into that which sustains us. And in a strange dance we can transform grief into merriment, our losses into the joy and essence of life

Life is an undulation, it is a gentle swaying between the dark and the light.  A step forward, a slide backward. So we gather for another holiday.  We hold each others hands while old songs play on the radio and we laugh about the days which live on in our memories and collective recollections. We are sad, but our grief allows us to feel more poignantly the joys of what we do have.  We can taste the sweetness of pie and the tartness of the cranberries and we can take it all in, every bite.  In this way we honor the ghosts that haunt the quiet moments, but embrace the living, embrace our life.


Ozark butterfly, July 2013

Black Friday in the kitchen

Forget Black Friday shopping, its more fun to spend the day in the kitchen making comfort food. The only thing I cooked on Thanksgiving was some hot spiced tea, so it didn’t quite satisfy the urge.

I missed my mother on Thanksgiving  and I was also away from my other mother- my dad’s wonderful wife.  She was across the country with her family, and baked a record 15 pies which I can guarantee (in absentia) were absolutely delicious.

Maybe it was the holiday spirit, the longing for far away family, or the desire to create with my bare hands. I stayed away from the mall and spent a freakishly-warm afternoon baking (84 degrees! Its supposed to be November!).  I chose pumpkin pie- my stepmother’s signature holiday treat and my very favorite since childhood.

I’m not a very experienced baker.  Surprising from someone who grew up in the Midwest, but I don’t remember my mom baking anything beyond a frozen pie from the grocery store or occasionally popping open a can of Pillsbury dinner rolls. And to be fair, it wasn’t something I showed any interest in until I was in my mid-twenties,and I was living across the country from my stepmom, the pie guru, and my stepsister, the cookie guru. Thank goodness there is the internet.

I don’t have 15 pies to show for my efforts, but for the first time I roasted a fresh sugar pumpkin to be used instead of the standard canned pumpkin.  I also made my own pie crust.  This newbie baker was proud of herself!  It tasted amazing, and I know my stepmom would give the pie her stamp of approval.

From cleaning out the guts of the sugar pumpkin to the delightful rhythm of flattening out dough with a rolling pin, the wonderful spicy sweetness of the pumpkin wafting through the house, and, finally, the first delicious bites, it was a wonderful day that brought those that I love just a little bit closer.

maybe someday I’ll learn how to make pie crust look pretty

Nelda’s Fabulous Pumpkin Pie

  • 2 cup (1 can) pumpkin
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1 can condensed milk

Mix ingredients in order listed.  Pour into deep dish pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and 45 minutes at 350.  When done, the top of the pumpkin will be rounded and no longer shiny.  Will deflate with cooling.

the last thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2011 was the last holiday my mother lived to see. I hear Grandma’s voice in my head (regrets are as useful as tits on a bull, Katy) but still, I find them creeping in, uninvited guests that stay long past their welcome.

It was a special day, the last Thanksgiving.  My coworkers gave us a full Turkey dinner, more than enough delicious food to feed the family for days on end.  Mom was strong enough to eat a little and enjoy the company of her dear ones. The day was full of gifts from start to finish.

But I was tired.  I was angry.  I was overwhelmed with the relatively simple task of reheating our Thanksgiving feast from AJ’s. I tried to coordinate everything seamlessly, and never before had it been so difficult to ensure all the food was simultaneously hot to be served for our 10 or so family members.  I had mixed success, and it frustrated me. Thank god I didn’t try to actually cook. When I wasn’t feeling full of gratitude and surrounded by love from all directions, Thanksgiving found me to be an irritable bitch.

I know Thanksgiving also carried sadness for Mom. She always loved to cook huge meals for her family members during the holidays, and she always make it look easy.  Her eyes grew glassy when she saw me running around the kitchen and she said softly “I’m sorry I can’t help.”

I was sorry too, profoundly sorry.

I know I told her that day that I loved her, I was grateful for her.  But I was fearful, and the months of protracted loss had chewed me up and left my insides looking like a seasonal squash.  I was angry that I was sharing my last Thanksgiving with my mother.  I had lots of expectations to let go of- years ahead of beautiful holiday dinners, perfectly prepared, cooked with her at my side.  I did the best I could do, but I wish that I could have released, let go, allowed myself to be rooted in that special day, that special moment, and feel the joy of having her with me, of being her daughter.

She knew my heart as well as anyone, and she knew I loved her.  I just wish I could have done things differently. It would have been more enjoyable for everyone involved.

This Thanksgiving I miss her, but I have also done some recovery. I have a wonderful life, full of blessings.  Today my heart isn’t like a the limp guts of a stringy squash; rather my heart is full of gratitude for a multitude of things, but especially gratitude that my life started with this tremendous woman, that I was able to know her and call her “Mom” and share my life with her for 31 years.

Thanks for the wonderful memories, Mom.  You were incredible.

the last Thanksgiving, 2011