Tag: MeeMaw

Thanksgiving 2017

A very long time ago in a place not too far away, I remember celebrating Thanksgiving. It usually began with Terry, my brother, and me getting up later than our usual 7:00 a.m., arguing over which cereal to have for breakfast, then watching early morning cartoons. My mother wasn’t home, she was next door at my grandparents’ house, already starting on preparations for the feast. We lived in a duplex with my grandpa, MeeMaw, and Aunt Rose (Grandpa’s sister) on one side and my parents, Terry, Aunt Blanche (MeeMaw’s sister) on ours, so she wasn’t far away. We, Terry and I, had full run of both sides. Eventually, we’d get ourselves dressed and wander next door to get in the way and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Aunt Rose always had a present for us and it was always the same thing. Something I looked forward to every year. A Christmas coloring book and a new box of crayons. (To be perfectly honest, I STILL love the smell of crayons!) Terry and I lay on the floor, watched the parade, and “died” of hunger smelling MeeMaw’s fresh rolls, turkey, and assorted other delights as they baked. One year, somewhere between 1972 and 1975, we had a massive crowd. My aunt, uncle, three cousins, and Grandma Doyle all came over along with my neighbors, Mrs. McDaniel and her three children, all older than Terry and me but not by much. The noise was phenomenal. I loved every moment of it. Family, friends, food, coloring, joking, catching a football outside (okay, so I didn’t really “catch” it, but I tried!!), even doing the dishes was fun because there were so many people. I was actually a fairly shy child, but I absolutely LOVED that Thanksgiving with so many people around.

Fast Forward to 1986.  This was the year I married Scott. We married on November 29, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The mean wasn’t nearly as chaotic as that one in the ’70s, but it was still pretty damned good. Both of my grandmothers were there )grandpa, Rose, and Blanched had passed away) along with Terry, his fiancee, Scott, and both of my parents. We laughed, learned about how Grandpa once brought home a live turkey on the bus after getting drunk as a skunk on homemade wine, ate our weight in turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and everything else. Not as many people there, but I still felt cocooned with family, warmth, and love.

1994.  My house. I now had babies – 2 perfect boys. I wasn’t about to drag them out to everyone else’s house, so I hosted Thanksgiving. My mom held the baby, Nick, and Michael watched the parade with his grandpa and dad while MeeMaw and I cooked. It was great. While we ate, I looked around. The dishes, my great-grandmother’s sparkled. Michael gnawed on a turkey leg that was as big as his head and Nick discovered the pure joy of a corn casserole and MeeMaw’s rolls. I couldn’t help but notice, though, the empty seats that should have been filled with my grandfather, Rose, Blanche, and most of all, Terry. Still, I felt them there and loved them all.

2017.  Time, it seems, moves faster as I get older. This year so many more will be missing. I will not even be hosting the dinner. Michael and his wife will be. Michael married a woman who is lovely in every possible way and I am so very, very happy to claim her as my daughter in law.  At his table we, Scott and I, will sit beside her father and grandmother and enjoy a dinner my son and I will prepare. He’s doing most of the work, in all truth, which makes me so incredibly proud I can’t hardly contain myself. I’m bringing desserts which MeeMaw taught me to make. My baby, Nick, now lives 4 hours away and can’t come home again for the holidays. My father will enjoy his feast with his son, mother, sister, Rose, Blanch, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. My mother won’t even know it is Thanksgiving and will eat at the Nursing Home because she can no longer leave the facility. Even if I did bring her, she wouldn’t know where she was or whom she was with. I will feel the loss of each and every one of them.

My family has changed drastically over the years. I never would have thought, back in 1973, that I would be the mother of 2 men.  That I would have to celebrate so many holdiays without both of my sons with me. That my only brother would have been killed at the age of 27. That my mother would lose her memory. That I would, by default, become the matriach of the family. But some things I hoped for, and they have happened. I HAVE 2 sons who are strong, compassionate, kind, and wise. I have a husband who has stood by me through all the grief and loss. I have a daughter-in-law who is the only person who loves my son as much as I do. I have a mother and father-in-law whom I respect, admire, and love.

I have lived a blessed life, and I am thankful.20170630_121419-1

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Baking Ghosts

It’s usually when I’m baking pies or Christmas cookies that she comes to visit me. I suppose this only makes sense since she’s the one who taught me not only to bake, but her philosphy behind feeding her family and friends. A philosphy I also embrace. That to feed those you love is an honor. Honor them and yourself by giving them the most nutritious, well cooked real food you can. Junk food is fine once in a while, but even if it takes time, sweat, and hard work, by preparing food from scratch, you know exactly what is going into the bodies of the people you love. Your food literally becomes their body. Honor them by giving them your best as often as possible.

Today, I was rolling out dough for an apple pie when she came. My grandmother. MeeMaw. She saw that the dough was sticking and I could hear her saying, “Better sprinkle more flour on your cloth. You don’t want it to be pulling apart now. Work it too much and it’ll be tough, you know.”

I was slicing the apples, filling the crust when I heard her ask, “You going to let that glaze burn?” I turned off the glaze which had thickened perfectly. She came up with the recipe. I’m sure she read the basics of the recipe somewhere, but she perfected it. Nick insists that this was done in her super secret underground kitchen. In truth, it was in the finished basement on her side of the duplex I grew up in. When my dad tested positive for diabetes, she came up with this recipe. Make the pie like usual, but instead of sugar, use 1-2 cups of apple cider. To this add all of your usual spices then set it on the stove to simmer. After it “looks right” mix a solution of corn starch and water until it’s smooth and then slowly add it to the cider. Let it cook a bit then pour it over the sliced apples in the curst. I’d give measurements, but I can’t. She didn’t really measure and taught me how to tell if something “looked right” along with eyeballing how much cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, and ginger to use.

As I was brushing the top of the pie with an egg beaten with water I asked her a question. “How am I doing?” She is the person I most wanted to proud of me. She is the person I most wanted to impress. I thought about my house and figured she wouldn’t be all that impressed with my housekeeping abilities, but she’d understand that as a working woman, there’s only so much time in the day. I thought about beginning my 32nd (Holy Toledo!!) year of teaching. You work hard and you’ve helped a lot of kids. Yep. She’d be proud of that. Then, I thought about my sons, her great grandsons, the greatest joys of her life. The day I brought Michael home from the hospital almost 29 yea1382545039107rs (Holy Toledo!!) ago, she snatched him up, decided he needed his diaper changed, kissed him all the way to the changing table, and when he peed in her ear, she giggled like a school girl. Once Nick came along and had colic, she’d see how exhausted I was, take him from me, and sit in her rocking reliner. I have no idea what she was saying, but she murmured to him and he immediately stopped his screaming, cuddled into her, and calmed. She was magical. Both of them are now men with their own lives, jobs, homes. They are both in their own way compassionate, intelligent, and strong individuals. I can count on them for anything.  Well now. They couldn’t have turned out better if they’d tried. It’s an odd saying, I know, but it was her way of saying they were perfect.

Then came the big question. I’ve been feeling lost lately, unneeded (after all, the boys are grown men now), superfluous. When they were little, they were my life – and it was a fabulous life. Now, I just don’t have a good sense of purpose. Did you ever stop needing me? she asked back. I smiled. She did this. She answered your question with one of her own which led you to figure out the answer for yourself.

And you thought this essay was going to be about pie.