Back to Mom. Over the decades, there have been lots of things we haven't agreed on, but in the last few years I've grown to appreciate the richness she has brought to my life more. Intentionally or not, she began teaching me at that second meeting. It was the first "northerner's" Thanksgiving I'd ever gone to. The fragrances that exploded out the back door (since we always come and go through the back door), as we entered were as foreign to me as entering a foreign land. Spices, roasting turkey, and a whiff of lime(?).
BTW: Having been raised in the South and on southern cuisine, turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie had never been on our family Thanksgiving menu.
On the dining table was slices of turkey, a bowl of rich red cranberry sauce, a tray of cheeses, orange jello, and a bowl of something I wasn't quite sure what it was at first, moist, green, fragrant. When the buffet line started, a couple of my soon to be in-law siblings raved about Mom's dressing. I'd never seen or eaten sage, bread dressing before, but trying to be a dutiful daughter-in-law to be, I put some on my plate. As Tom passed on his mom's dressing, he looked at my plate and chuckled. It took about 10 years for me to be brave enough to skip it, maintaining my preference for cornbread dressing loaded with onions and pepper.
Maybe I didn't develop a taste for Mom's dressing, which incidentally she doesn't eat, but she did teach me how to roast a turkey and to appreciate pumpkin pie. Now our family Thanksgivings are not complete without both. This week, James tried his hand at roasting his own pumpkin and making a pie with filling from scratch. I think he needs to take a piece to Grandma.
In the early days, when everyone didn't have two to ten other stops to make, Thanksgiving was an all day event at Mom and Dad's. Maybe an hour after all the dishes and cookware were washed and put away, somebody would mention supper. New culinary delights for me. Growing up on Hellman's mayonnaise, I had never tasted Miracle Whip, but I discovered that turkey sandwiches are best on plain bread with Miracle Whip. And then Mom pulled these tiny glasses with lids that had something orangish in them out of the frige. Well, looky there! You can actually buy pimento cheese already made. Not only that, as hard as it was to believe, it was sweeter than our homemade pimento cheese (cuz, you know how us southerners love to sweeten up any dish).
While all this feasting was going on, the ballgames played in the living room. (My Mom and Dad also taught me to appreciate parades, like the Rose Bowl and the American Royal, on tv.)
In between round one and round two of eating, Mom usually got some kind of board game going at the dining table for the ones who didn't care as much for football. Funny thing is, I don't remember Mom actually playing as much as facilitating. She seemed to enjoy listening to her family celebrate being her family.
Mom still lives in the small house she has shared with her family for over 50 years. Quite remarkable, these days! Whenever I walk in the door, the smells of Thanksgiving coupled with the sounds of holiday football games are still almost tangible. I should probably tell her how thankful I am for her and the home she has made for all of us. Who are you thankful in your life?