I was not amused by the fact that I couldn’t even find a soup kitchen who wanted me for Thanksgiving. They were all “full” for their volunteer lists, but they would gladly take my money if I wanted to make a donation.
I watched the kids pull out of the driveway in the morning, and I felt sick.
An hour later, they swung by again to drop off a loaf of bread from Mass. The kids said it was Dad’s idea. My thoughts alternated between that’s so sweet of him, and thanks for the fucking bread – you must feel so charitable today, leaving me here all alone and not inviting me to the family dinner, you bunch of arrogant hypocrites. I could see them all, laughing around their table, sneering, “That’s what she gets for leaving the family. She deserves to be sad and lonely and miserable.”
I turned on the television, to turn off my head, and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which was a lost luxury for me. I tried not to feel left out when I saw the crowds of families lined up in the streets of New York.
During a commercial break, I decided I might like some stuffed artichokes (one of the traditional Thanksgiving foods at my in-laws’ house that I had come to love). I had purchased a few groceries the day before, just in case I had the urge to cook. I wasn’t sure I would feel like it, but as I chopped the garlic and prepared the stuffing, I began to feel a little bit better.
Since I had already chopped garlic and Italian parsley, I figured I might as well prepare a pot of my red sauce, so I added that to the stove-top.
In between the preparation steps, I moved out to the living room to watch a little of the parade, followed by a dog show, of all things (I’m not really into that), which I enjoyed with my puppy on my lap.
Next came Miracle on 34th Street, which I had never seen. That was the highlight of my day. What a great movie, and a perfect one for Thanksgiving Day. I’m beginning to feel the Christmas spirit.
Throughout the day, my feet found themselves in the kitchen, and my hands automatically did the things they usually do on this holiday.
I mashed potatoes, at my daughter’s request because she wanted the leftovers, but also for myself. They couldn’t have turned out more perfect. Creamy and thick and full of flavor… my mother’s version came from the Hungry Jack box.
As I peeled the potatoes, my grandmother’s voice rang in my head, telling me I wasted too much of the potato because I pared it too aggressively. She grew up during the depression, and every sliver of food counted. I knew she was trying to help, not criticize, so I kept a more gentle touch with the paring knife as I thought of her and missed her.
Every time I use my yellow KitchenAid mixer or my stainless steel KitchenAid food processor (yes, I prefer KitchenAid to Cuisinart) I feel content and happy and so very glad I thought I was worth those not-so-inexpensive purchases over the last few years. And my measuring cups – those precious measuring cups – I salvaged them from my ex’s packed boxes during the divorce. He took every other one from the set, because he claimed he got “half of everything.”
A tray of manicotti (pronounced “mann-i-gote” in this neck of the woods) made its way into the oven.
I found a recipe in my files hand-written by my other grandmother for her special yeast rolls. Her rolls were the only thing in my life I ever stole. When I was about 5, my parents smelled yeast in the car on the way home from Thanksgiving dinner and finally tracked it down to my coat pockets. They told me all I had to do was ask. I thought of her, with her tiny frame and hunched shoulders, cooking all day in her modest kitchen for a small army. She never made it seem like work – it was her way of loving us.
As darkness fell, I began feeling sorry for myself. I decided to bake my well-loved apple pie. The crust gave me some trouble; it was stickier than usual, maybe because of the high humidity this year. I rolled it out, over and over, with Oprah interviewing former President Clinton in the background. They spoke of giving. Giving is nice, I thought. I should focus more on that, instead of on everything I don’t have.
I chilled the dough – it was too firm. I rolled it out – it was too soft and fell apart. I finally got the top on the pie just right, crimped the edges, and realized I left out the dots of butter on the filling. Perfectionism is the bane of my existence, but a great asset in baking. I took off the top of the pie, threw it in the trash, and made an entirely new crust.
An hour later, I had a picture-perfect apple pie.
By the end of the day, I had made many of my favorite dishes – virtually subconsciously – without the usual stress. What had all the fuss been about in previous years? This really wasn’t so hard at all.
The kids are home now. The weather is turning cold. We are snuggling in to relax in our sweats and fuzzy slippers (by mutual agreement), and a little later the kitchen will be buzzing while each of us warms up our favorite Thanksgiving leftovers.
I made it.