This time of year always brings back so many memories… beginning with my grandmother, the original keeper of the holiday traditions and recipes. She was never one to take shortcuts preferring to make everything from scratch including her infamous Apple Raisin stuffing, a secret family recipe passed among generations of women. This time of year was always the opening event of a season of cooking, baking, and, inevitably, overeating! No one ever went away hungry – not on her watch.
I was only five when she passed, on the eve of Christmas Eve, but I remember the morning after vividly. I woke up to find my Mother, sitting alone at the kitchen table. I knew things would never be the same. You see, my mother had lost both of her parents in a little over a year. She had lost her world.
I never understood the depth of that grief until I lost her five years ago. Losing one parent is life-altering. Losing two parents in such a short period of time is unthinkable. But she carried on. She carried on because she had two young children who needed her. She carried on because she didn’t have any other option. She carried on alone – an only child with no real support from the man she married, my father. She carried on because that is who she was. In the height of the holiday season, after losing her mother, her mother’s secret family recipe became her own.
And so it was that I became her little helper. I still remember peeling and chopping apples for the stuffing on Thanksgiving Eve. I remember the smells of turkey, freshly baked desserts, and, of course, the infamous stuffing. I remember the “snibbits” of turkey that we would claim for ourselves before the turkey even hit the table. I remember being relegated to the children’s table, even as a young adult, and wondering if I ever would get to sit at the “adult” table. But mostly, I remember being a part of something larger- the love and craziness that is family.
Now that my mother has been passed, I am the keeper of this recipe – the last in a long line of women who made this on Thanksgivings past. So tomorrow, I will make this recipe because no Thanksgiving is the same without it. I will read my mother’s handwriting, long since faded, and know that the love she had for me did not die with her. It remains with me. It comforts me. But mostly, I will be reminded of her “recipe” for living – an unyielding faith in the Divine, quiet service towards others, her often times surprising sense of humor, and a love that is boundless.