This was my first Thanksgiving without my Mother here, and I thought long and hard about what to add to the menu in her honor. Quite honestly, she never liked to cook much. She would make a nice cranberry salad, which I feel no end of guilt about saying I did not like. And her heart wasn’t in the preparing of it, anyway. Mom’s true gifts were beautiful seasonal decor. Welcoming any guests. Easy conversation. Genuine interest in listening to other people. Quick to give advice when solicited. Happy to engage a newcomer in conversation.
Looking back to Thanksgivings as a child, I realize that the conversations what I remember most. I distinctly recall sitting at the kids table, listening to the grownups talk. My family was small, and my sister and I were the only kids. My maternal grandparents and my grandfather’s sisters were usually our only guests. My great aunts were college educated back when few people were. They and my mother were well informed and shared opinions easily. The world was just as they saw it, no question. Or so it seemed to me.
My grandfather and father chimed in but they never led the conversation. They had both grown up with two sisters, no brothers, and had strong mothers. I never realized that they had that in common before now. I suppose they were just used to listening to women, at least in the sphere of women, which the dinner table surely was. The talk from the grownups table fascinated me, and I was glad when I could make the move from the kids table. Even better when I could chime in with a witty apropos.
So I scratched the “cooking-in-honor-of” menu this year. I never could make that stuffing like Aunt Lelah did. I don’t really like Watergate salad. My family prefers the pumpkin pie from Ralph’s to my Grandmother’s recipe. This year, I decided to cook what I wanted to cook, and to enjoy the food brought by our guests.
I realized that what would truly honor the memory of my mother and all the lovely women in my family is more than just food. It’s the time around the table. Taking the time to truly listen and share. The appreciation of simply being together. So we said a prayer to include them in our meal and our conversation. I’m sure they were here. And nobody missed the Watergate salad.