Thanksgiving, my entire day is spent wondering what the heck I am not doing right. When I was a child, my mother spent the entire day preparing the Thanksgiving meal. My mother was not like the many who begin to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner the Wednesday before, everything was done the day of. She was already up and cooking, with the turkey stuffed and in the oven, before I began to rub the sleep out of my eyes. The smell of the turkey was usually what drew me from my bed.
I don’t remember anyone helping her prepare the meal, other than the some of the kids. I don’t remember anyone, who was invited to dinner, being responsible for bringing sides to accompany what she had prepared. We always ended up with entirely too much food: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, peas, corn, macaroni, Waldorf salad, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie and a disgusting mince meat pie that only the adults ate.
My mother worked her magic in the kitchen from the early morning hours until the dinner hour, which was usually about 5:00pm. As I became the preparer of the holiday meal, I worried about the huge shoes that I had to fill. I don’t like dressing so how would I stuff my turkey? Will I be able to plan it all right and make it to the dinner table on time? Will everyone enjoy being at my table the way we all couldn’t wait to get to mom’s table?
Every year, I wonder what I am doing wrong. Like mom, I don’t prepare things the day before, not usually. Like mom, I prepare potatoes, sweet potato pies, and Waldorf salad (sometimes). Unlike mom, nothing comes from a box or a can. My potatoes are washed, peeled, boiled and mashed. My corn bread dressing (I don’t stuff my turkey for having read that it is not healthy to do so during cooking.) is made from homemade cornbread. My vegetables, whichever I chose for the year, are fresh (no cans/not frozen). So why did it take mom so long in the kitchen and I am done in half the time?
There must be something that I am missing. I go back and forth to the kitchen; standing there I look around running through the list in my head, the memory of mom’s dinner, the grocery list, mom’s dinner. “What am I missing?” Should I have another vegetable side? Maybe I should make another pie? Maybe, I should make mince meat pie; that looked like it took a while but, I hate mince meat pie. I hate the name “mince meat”. No, I wont make it.
There must be something else. It never fails. It is really quite ridiculous. My meal is fine. My kids love my meal. My sister loves my meal. I love my meal. Mom’s meal, with its canned vegetables and boxed mashed potatoes left a permanent imprint and I spend year after year trying to recreate that feeling with my family, since I am not with my entire family.
Perhaps what’s missing isn’t in the meal. Maybe we, the five children, kept my mom busy enough that a 5 hour meal prep turned into a 10 hour meal prep. I am not sure what it is. But, I’m calling mom.
- For my mother on Thanksgiving (amanwithaphd.wordpress.com)