Sitting cross-legged on our living room floor, my daughter brought both arms up, thumbs extended, and said "Yes!" as if she had just realized a great victory.
The excitement was over our response to a question she started asking almost by the time the Halloween decorations came down. Every day, she has asked "Thanksgiving... two weeks... Grandma's house?" And, although we have told her repeatedly that we will go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, her excitement never diminishes.
My nephew, Wayne, wrote me an e-mail today recalling those wonderful days he spent at his own grandmother's house. He recounts that his most fond memories are those of the "sounds and smells of grandma in the kitchen." My mother was a culinary magician without a doubt, but it seems we don't remember the banquets as much as we recall the lady who prepared them and the intense love she served up along with the food.
That love was evident throughout the house, but was overwhelming in the kitchen. We might drift off into the living room or den for a few moments, but we always returned to the social center of every Thanksgiving: the kitchen.
Amid rattling pans, steamy pots on the stove and the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven, mom caught us up on what our family members around the country had been up to. As she pulled one of us over to stir a pot of gravy, she gave friendly advice to the new sister-in-law on what to do about a pesky neighbor, or a son's school grade. All the while, she interrupted herself long enough to look at the latest crayon artwork by a granddaughter, or to listen to a grandson tell about last week's football game.
It seems that grandmothers express love for their families not only with embraces and kisses, but by preparing for them favorite dishes from their vast repertoire of recipes. Wayne recollects that he had a particular craving for my mom's pumpkin pies, and she always made an extra one for him to carry home. After my mom passed away, the one thing I missed most was her cranberry salad and special gravy she made for me. Fortunately, the task of making that gravy for me passed on to my next "mother."
Harriett Lucas, my mother-in-law, found out early in my marriage that I was allergic, if only psychologically so, to liver. So, during the first Thanksgiving at her house she presented me with my own little steaming bowl of giblet gravy for the dressing, minus the liver. That sign of affection from her was only one of the many symbolic gestures that permeate this singular all-American meal.
I noticed early on in our relationship that wherever my daughter sits at the table, you may rest assured that grandma is sitting in the seat right next to her. It is an ongoing competition to see whether my wife or her mother will see to Charli's needs first.
But other members of her family are not ignored; grandma makes sure that each one of us has their own special treats magnificently displayed in front of them. These culinary delights only tend to spark the conversation around the table, which, in turn, sparks the camaraderie and love which hangs over all of us like a warming blanket.
Grandmothers (and future grandmothers) apparently are the fusing element of every family's Thanksgiving, and their influence doesn't seem to disappear with our adulthood. I cannot sit down to this annual feast without the memories of my own grandmother and mother seeping into the conversation.
A friend recently wrote to me from Iraq stating he hoped he would return in time for Thanksgiving and "my grandma's mincemeat pie." Sean Dellinger, another acquaintance, revealed that although he and his siblings are married with children they always look forward to traveling to his grandmother's house for Thanksgiving.
Using recipes that have been passed down through the ages, grandmothers stir in the wisdom and love of a lifetime to create morsels saturated with their love, understanding and compassion. This magical talent is so much a part of the fabric which creates the holiday that we rarely realize it or give it appropriate recognition.
Therefore, this Thanksgiving as we sit with our families and give gratitude for the abundance of blessings we have been bestowed, let's remember the one blessing which makes it all possible. Let's not forget to also give thanks for grandmothers and mothers, the maternal magicians of family love.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
(Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.