Fall is my favorite season of the year, then Spring. But it is Fall that makes me feel full of life. The cooler weather invigorates me. It inspires me to start thinking about the holidays. The colors of the season are spectacular. It may seem like the end of all things with dying leaves and frost on the grass, but I linger on waiting and enjoying this special moment. I have always been good at waiting.
Maybe, it is the memories of my grandmother cooking and baking. She always began her homemade fruit cakes in fall. You had to wait until Christmas before it was ready. Her fruit cake was delicious. I know what you are thinking, I hear the jokes, but it really was good. Everyday she would saturate it with a little bit of whisky and wrap it back up in the cheese cloth. A little look into the tin, a little smell, a little joy waiting for until it was ready. Did I tell you that I am good at waiting?
I would awake on Thanksgiving morning to the wafting smell of the turkey and dressing cooking in the oven. It was cold in the house because she did not use any heat at night. I slept beneath stacks of home made quilts. She tucked you in at night and you couldn't move from the weight of the quilts. A memory I keep with me always, tucked away in my heart. Always there, ready to remember the wonderful woman that loved me. The wonderful grandparent that I loved so deeply. She was my rock, my foundation, my life. I felt secure with her. I felt safe with her. My grandfather had already passed on, so it was just my grandmother. She was innately strong with wisdom that came from years and years of experience. Not many women are made that way anymore. I hope I measure up in some small way.
Thirty-nine years ago and three days before Thanksgiving, my grand momma and I were watching TV. My sweet husband to be had left for basic camp in San Antonio. I was making an egg sandwich and was back and forth to the kitchen. My mother was an ER nurse and she was at work that night on the three to eleven shift. I remember talking with her about Doc. It was a pleasant night as we watched Hee Haw. One like many others that we had shared.
That night in an moment my life would change forever. I won't go into the details, but my grandmother died with me at home. She died instantly from an cerebral hemorrhage. My world changed forever. I had just completed a CPR course at college and could not do a thing to help her. It has taken me years to forgive myself for not being able to do anything. It was an impossible situation, I realize that I was not in control, but I can't tell you the anguish I felt that night.
Three days before Thanksgiving, momma had never cooked a Thanksgiving meal, but some how by the Grace of God, momma, my sister and I began to cook that meal. It would be unthinkable to not cook the turkey. Grand momma never wasted anything and by cooking it we would honor her. Bit by bit. My job was always to chop the celery, onions, and peppers into finely chopped pieces. That was something I was comfortable with, after all that was my job. That day was but a blur to me, but I remember the feelings, the emotions, and crying. Unstoppable tears. We had buried grand momma the day before Thanksgiving.
People came to the house with food, hugs and salutations and words of encouragement for us. They were kind and spoke of all the good deeds my grand momma had done. I was stunned is all I can say from her death. We always depended on grand momma for everything. She was the rock, the firm foundation, my life. The matriarch of the family.
So as the holiday draws near, I love to remember the woman who shaped me into the person I am today. For years, I was so sad and could barely get through the holiday, until, I had to cook my first turkey for Thanksgiving. I don't often let anyone see my true feelings especially of something that shook my world in such a catastrophic way. It is in the telling of this story that I began to heal. I wish I wasn't such an emotional person, but that is who I am and I can't change that.
Back to the turkey. After preparing the turkey and placing it in the oven, I began to make my dressing. The memories of her dressing I can instantly recall. The smell of it, the texture of it... I felt her presence with me that day. I felt her hand on my shoulder as I mixed the ingredients together. I felt safe once again. I will never forget that day and the feelings. It was heaven sent for just me. Thank you grand momma for loving me for me. You will never know how much that meant to me. Unconditional love. And by the way, the meal was perfect and that was the beginning of my learning how to cook Thanksgiving dinner.
Since 1971, when she died, I think of her often, but especially when I am making dressing. It brings me close to her. This year I am still making my dressing, but I ask my SIL to make her mother's dressing as well. We will enjoy our memories together.