My husband and I were newly married, when we invited my parents and brother over to host our first Thanksgiving. I followed the directions, recalled other instructions learned until that point, and felt very proud. Since Mom made wonderful Thanksgiving dinners, I copied her menu plan. Just before our company was about to arrive, I thought it all looked good, after I peaked at the turkey browning in the oven. It smelled delicious, especially when I opened the oven door and the steam wafted towards my face. When I was younger, there were many times when Mom called me into the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.
“Mary Ann, come in here and watch me do this,” she’d say. “I’m stuffing the bird! You’ll need to know how to do this someday.” Sometimes, I pretended I didn’t hear her, and she would have to come and find me from wherever I was hiding in the house. Back then, I didn’t like looking at anything that used to be alive and was pale and unmoving. Mom used to cut up chickens, and I would tell her to stop because she was hurting the poor little thing. The sound of cracking bones made me feel nauseous.
“I can’t hurt it, because it’s dead,” she would tell me. No smile accompanied those words, because cooking is serious business, even though Mom liked to giggle at most things.
“You will need to know how to do this,” she repeated. I groaned and wondered why. Why did she call me and not my brothers? The Thanksgiving mornings at the house where I grew up smelled like toast and simmering onions and celery. Mom toasted the bread and tore it up into bite-sized pieces for the stuffing.
Yes, I see how the nails go in and how the string wraps around to keep in all the stuffing, I thought. The way the string went reminded me of shoe laces.
The day I roasted my first turkey, I toasted bread too. Now I use Pepperidge Farm bread cubes seasoned with onion and sage. When I first started using those packets, it felt like I was cheating, but it worked out okay, and no one minded that it wasn’t bread that I personally put into the toaster. As things moved along, the cooking made our house smell delicious too.
When Mom, Dad, and Brother came over, I’m sure they told us how good everything smelled, but when Mom looked at the bird in the oven, she informed me that I had it upside down. Again, no giggles came my way. I must have missed that part somewhere! I pulled out the roaster and flipped the main course over. It only had a little more time to roast. After Husband carved it and we enjoyed our first bites, it all tasted flavorful – just like Mom’s. Ever since that day, I roast the turkey breast side up. I’m still not sure if it makes much of a difference.
To this day, when I get a chance to host Thanksgiving dinner, I use Mom’s menu plan. Others may think that’s boring, but I find it to be a great comfort. It brings back memories of other blessed Thanksgivings I’ve been lucky to enjoy over the years. Plus, I love that lime jello with cottage cheese, marshmallows, and cool whip that was probably popular in the 50s!
Today I am thankful for the memories Mom gave me when she taught me how to stuff a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is possible only for those who take time to remember;
no one can give thanks who has a short memory. ~Author Unknown