My grandmother ROCKED Thanksgiving, as do her children and my dad’s side of the family– equally talented across the board. Last night, Geoff and I could have been a Norman Rockwell painting for about 12 minutes, baking pies and prepping side dishes for today while listening to Christmas music. Kids were asleep after we had already burned one pumpkin pie earlier in the day. I shared with him how I always miss my grandmother the most on Thanksgiving. She always made the best pull apart white dinner rolls whenever we came to visit her in Maine, but especially on Thanksgiving. Her seven children called her “Ma,” but she was Grammy to the rest of us.
We would arrive late the night before and Grammy would have something on the stove warm and ready for us to eat that was delicious. There was the time I hoped there would be spaghetti sauce and there was; my Uncle Gordon had recently shot his own finger off and he stood in Grammy’s kitchen with the nub of his missing finger pointed up his nose so that it appeared to reach inside his brain. He wore a leather jacket, chains, ripped blue jeans and lived with my grandmother whose dainty dishes, extensive tea cup collection, and doily-ed end tables made them the most unlikely of housemates.
When I was really little, I felt like everyone came to her house for Thanksgiving because it was also my birthday weekend. When really, she was the draw– the little house which could pack children and grandchildren, and always Chet, the next door neighbor who lived alone but showed up religiously with donuts on mornings we visited. Gram always let me pick out a special outfit from the JC Penney catalog for my birthday gift, but more importantly she always made me feel special in general. I know we drove her crazy when we fought, which was often, but her hugs were like my mom’s– could squeeze the life blood from you.
Grammy baked apple pie and blueberry pie and something called graham cracker pie, which, incidentally, was my favorite, never to be replicated after she passed away. My two aunts, Sue and Laurie, both inherited her pie-baking skills with damn good apple and blueberry pies, but no one really paid attention to the graham cracker recipe, which I think was mostly like a vanilla pudding on top of graham cracker crust. My mom was and remains less “into” pie and more into other kinds of desserts, just as delicious. She makes my favorite stuffing, something else I haven’t been able to replicate.
My Aunt Sue has carried on the tradition of spaghetti sauce for me when I come to Maine to visit, now with my own family. There were the years when Gram wasn’t in great health so we celebrated in other places– but always the rolls were present along with a slew of pies. She wore assorted aprons, one of which I have now and my daughter loves to wear. I like to cook and bake, but we are as far away from a Norman Rockwell painting during most meal preparations so big holidays are tough in our little house.
Now, either my mom and dad or Geoff’s parents host us at their home, and we have our own family traditions, neither of which include graham cracker pie or pull apart white dinner rolls. But that is okay because I can share those memories with my kiddos, and it’s a little like Grammy is with us at the table. Her table in heaven has grown a little bit bigger, adding brothers over the years, sadly two of her grandchildren, a son two years ago, and her sister, my great Aunt Mary, just this last year. I know for a fact the rolls are really good in heaven; they are always warm and the butter melts easily into the cracks and spaces between the bread. And now that Aunt Mary is with her, the Manhattans are flowing by 4 pm.
Thanksgiving is now a hike in the morning with dear friends, kids and dogs followed by a shared afternoon meal including our four parents, our children’s four grandparents, whom our kids adore. Thanksgiving is chopping our annual skinny tall evergreen down in the woods and putting it up the next day. Thanksgiving is now a very independent 5 and 6 year old chock full of their OWN ideas for the tree. A new tradition this year, established by our children, is their own little Christmas tree upstairs outside their bedrooms.
Gratitude. Serenity. Friendship. Peace. Love. May all of these find their way to your table today and always. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.