Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

We all know the Thanksgiving drill: The turkey feast, dysfunctional family drama, and getting through the mundane recitations around the table about why we’re thankful. A day full of imperfections, complications, and fat pants.

Two weeks before Turkey Day the young, insecure “Terry” comes out, as I pour over recipes.

What can I cook up to make everybody happy? I design elaborate tablescapes, grocery shop, pre-plan, plan and re-plan the big shebang.

On the day of, I’m a one woman band, and I’m okay with that. I spend most of my holiday in the kitchen, which is fine with me. My way of saying I love you.

Dicing, slicing, mincing chopping, grinding, smashing, peeling, shredding.

All the while dancing, singing and sometimes crying to the songs on my iPod.

Sautéing, basting, and baking.  Always with precision, duty, perfection. And always result oriented—the need to please.

The need to love. The need to be loved.

As I prepare the turkey I fondly remember the time when I was about nine that my French grandmother Mammy whipped our turkey out of the sink and started singing and dancing with it in our shabby Huron Street kitchen. I bolted out of my chair and joined in, our hands entwined with the turkey legs, water dripping on both of us.

Alouette, gentille alouette. Alouette, je te plumerai. 

I didn’t know it then, I couldn’t know it then, that I was in the middle of a diamond moment—a moment in time that I would remember every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life.

This Thanksgiving, most of our family is unavailable, so my daughter Ariel suggested we do Sushgiving on Friday— a little sushi and a lot of thanks.

I agreed, but I was also determined to prepare a Thanksgiving feast—even if it was just for my husband and me.

More than any other recent Thanksgiving, I desperately needed a day of gratitude, with some turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes thrown in for good measure.

It’s been 31 years since my grandmother died and I have lived more than half my life without her. Mammy’s long gone, but her love of Thanksgiving will never die.

So I was determined to shop and cook for days, and then get up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving and prepare a humongous feast—even if it was just for two of us.

Because I am Mammy’s granddaughter.

Last night, with the television blaring to keep me company, I prepared Mammy’s fruit and Jell-O mold and sadly recalled my lost family.

And then I thought about all the families that would sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year having survived hurricanes, wildfires and mass shootings.

How many families would sit around a table, with their loved ones missing?

Empty chairs.

As I measured and stirred, I silently asked God how someone could find the inner strength and courage to give thanks after losing everything.

God answered me. Sort of.

At the exact moment I asked God how, a mother and sister of a woman killed in the Las Vegas shooting tearfully said this on television:  “Be together. Just stay close with your family. You have to find the light. You have to find the beauty. It’s out there. Darkness is so strong, but light is stronger.”

Last Thanksgiving one of my beautiful granddaughters dropped a ginormous blob of Mammy’s cherry Jell-O mold on my white linen dining chair.

I gazed down and cringed at the probable permanent stain it would leave.

My granddaughter attempted to scoop up the jiggly mess with her tiny fingers while unknowingly sealed it into the delicate linen fabric even more.

That chair was toast.

She looked up at me and with a beaming smile squished the goop into my hand.

I gazed into her bright eyes and caught a glimpse of her future: preparing her own Thanksgiving dinner—cooking, singing, dancing.

I saw in her angelic face, all the Thanksgivings coming her way.

Chairs full of family.

With my hand full of red goo, missing my grandmother on the inside, but smiling on the outside, I gave my granddaughter a crushing bear hug and a whole-hearted thanks.

5 thoughts on “Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

  1. A wonderful story as usual Teri. Keep doing it because you received the baton passed to you by Mammy. So continue the tradition even if its for you and Peter. Happy thanksgiving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.