For the first time in years (and I mean decades), I did not spend Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. I had actually planned to host a small gathering myself while my sister Joyce was out of …
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For the first time in years (and I mean decades), I did not spend Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. I had actually planned to host a small gathering myself while my sister Joyce was out of town, but things fell apart early in the week, so John and I simply had a quiet Thanksgiving at home.
I didn’t do the whole roast turkey thing, Mom, because you always did, and then Joyce took over, maybe because she wanted to keep your marvelous, delicious tradition strong for her own children. I did turn to some of our beloved family recipes, though, and, as always, the ache of nostalgia swept over me. The day you were born – December 3, also the day we lost you (on your 89th birthday) – is next week, and the holidays are both sweet and poignant without you and Dad.
This year, as I pulled out my recipe boxes, folders, and worn and crinkled pages of long-time favorites, I happened upon some yellowed cards in your handwriting. Mom, they hold the scent of our home.
I have a cherished photo of you and me together in the house of my youth out on the highway in the San Luis Valley. I’m in saddle shoes standing on a chair in the kitchen, to be at your level, stirring something in a white mixing bowl adorned with big pink polka dots. You are beside me, at the counter and we can only see you from the side.
Looking at this photo now, I think perhaps, at that moment, I developed my passion for cooking and hosting and entertaining as you did.
But now, without you beside me in the kitchen, I struggle to puzzle out the ingredients, amounts and directions – some marked over as your refined your recipes – that I had just known when we stood together at the stove. And I hear the melody of your voice and the bells in your laughter, and I remember how you would arch just one eyebrow.
And as I worked in the kitchen for Thanksgiving, Mom, I sifted, stirred and measured on my own. Sometimes – often – I would stop to read the cards aloud, savoring the words in your handwriting, and I’m knifed through again with the loss we all tried so hard to postpone.
You taught me well, Mom, and along the way, I developed my own style, tastes, favorites. And when I entertain, I handle with reverence the linens, china and serving pieces that you employed. Joyce and I share many of these items and they’ve traveled well over these years.
And yet, and yet … sometimes I am seared with doubt that I can stand in this kitchen without you. I rub my fingers across achingly familiar handwriting in faded ink on those yellowed cards, and I am a child again on that chair beside you with my curls and bobby socks and saddle shoes.
I know, too, that I am your daughter still, Mom. When I hold your handwritten recipes, you are with me in the kitchen, though I stand alone.
Andrea Doray is a writer who, when someone compliments her on her cooking, replies, “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” just as her mother always did. Contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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