1st Annual Thanksgiving Nostalgic Wax

In the couple years before my mom died I wrote her a letter about what Thanksgiving by then meant to me.  I said that as a kid I didn’t get it– the whole big fucking deal about a meal.  We were (and are, like most clans) a dysfunctional family, so if I happened upon a pre-Christmas commercial about Danny coming home for Thanksgiving from the war or the Peace Corps or some other sacred cow of an excuse for the favorite single male in the family to be gone, all it did was induce tears of regret for what we were not as a family.  In my view, this sentimental thing just did not happen for us, so why all the effort?  Why the crescendo of emotion?

But as a young spouse, new to cooking my own Thanksgiving dinner, I had a wicked epiphanic sense of continuity and propulsion.  I was at the same moment 25 years old and 10.  I was peeling potatoes; I could SEE my mother’s super-soft pale hands as she turned potatoes toward her skinny aluminum peeler.  I was steaming my face above the open oven, checking the temperature of this bird as it emits that glorious buttery wall of heat; I saw my mother’s flushed face with a look of cheerful exasperation as she closed the oven door on her own turkey.  I wrote to Mom that the memory of her bringing forth this abundant tableau brought me closer to her every time I did the same, and the ritual of the turkey dinner became a sacrament.

Thanksgiving is this .  This remembering Mom’s Kitchen-Bouquet-browned gravy, the icy drafts of an old house in Tonawanda, NY swirled with the heightened fragrant warmth of a roasting tom.  The expectancy of people returning home, the anxiety of the same, the wish that we can-all-just-get-along, the hope that the adults will eat the mincemeat pie and save the cherry pie for us kids.  Thanksgiving is this elastic thread through time that brings us all together, all iterations of us, the young, the old, the gone, the future.

Thanksgiving is my nostalgic wax which,  like no other, buoys the past, calms and soothes the present, and lassos the future.  It has been, it is, and it will be: returning home.

One thought on “1st Annual Thanksgiving Nostalgic Wax

  1. I was reading Wally Lamb’s new book We are Water this morning, contemplating something you said to me the other day about “why” we end up on the life path we are on and then I read this and a small bulb went off in my head. You are a amazing cook, you have fond memories of your mothers wonderful cooking. Me not so much, I remember my mom setting the oven on fire one Thanksgiving and the nice firemen that came out to save the day! I remember loving to eat over at my friends houses, less excitement about eating at my own. I cook to get the job done, you pour your heart into it. I was a super skinny child because I hated to eat. I never really learned to enjoy good food until the Bayberry days. (once I learned the skinny part went away haha) My point, I was much more deeply affected by my mother than I ever realized before. Now in hind sight I can see why I married a cook, why I never really enjoyed cooking but loved to eat out. I have always been inspired by the “gift” you have in the kitchen. I can see that was a gift given to you by your mama. Happy Thanksgiving and I know you will be sharing that gift with the ones you love! Thank you for sharing it with me over the years. PS I will be making your deviled eggs. 🙂

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