When I opened my door on Thanksgiving morning, the first thing I saw was a great white heron stalking through the high grass in the marshy field next to my house. It immediately made me think of my mother. Every morning her neighbor in Sarasota, a very nice elderly gentleman, would lay out raw meat in his yard: strips of chicken breast or ground beef or whatever happened to be on hand. When we opened the door to get the morning paper, there would always be a gaggle of egrets and great white herons standing around waiting for him, like early morning shoppers waiting for the mall to open.
I don’t know if everyone feels this when they lose a parent, but since my mother passed away, I feel a little bit more like a grown-up. It’s not just that she’s no longer here to kiss my bruises (both physical and mental) or tell me to keep my feet off the couch or make me a grilled-cheese sandwich. It’s also that she’s not here to carry on the mantle of tradition. The last time I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at my house, George Bush was president – the first George Bush – so it’s high time I stepped up to the oven and took charge of things.
We had fourteen guests for Thanksgiving, which is hands-down the most people I’ve ever cooked for in my life. We mixed my mom’s good silver in with our own not-so-good silver, and I made cranberry sauce the way my mom always made it, with whole cloves, chopped oranges and a cinnamon stick, and in keeping with tradition, I made enough to feed fourteen people on a steady diet of cranberry sauce for about ten days. We’ll freeze half of it, and the rest will stay in the refrigerator until around February when we’ll finally throw it away and vow to make less next year.
The table looked pretty and everyone had seconds. There was lots of laughing and toasts and games with the kids. I did a good job, and I think my mom would have been proud. I’m thankful for that.
Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving was filled with love, happiness and lots of leftovers!