We would always start cooking the night before.
I’d stay up late with her and we’d put on Lucy on Nick at Nite, while she chopped and added and basted. It always started with the stuffing, and that meant apples. Lots and lots of yellow golden delicious apples. Which she would peel in turn, in one big long curly cue. An unbroken chain like she had been doing for years. But we would always get to talking and she’d slice off that apple piece by piece with her knife and share it with me, until it was completely gone. And then she would have to start all over and peel another one. She never seemed to mind though. It was all just part of the process.
Eventually the celery and the walnuts and the onion that made her cry would all get chopped and added to the mixture. A base of cornbread dressing, chicken broth and her super secret ingredient that I’m still not at liberty to share. Because she swore me to secrecy. And thus began the longest night of the year. For the next eight hours, every hour on the hour I would hear my grandma jump out of bed and come shuffling down the hallway to check on Tom. She always called our turkeys Tom.
I would sleep on the couch by the light of Dragnet and Mary Tyler Moore, so that I could hear her coming. And then I would jump up too. And together we would peel back the tin foil tent and make sure Tom was still in there. And that he was gold & bubbly. So that, by the time 8am rolled around, we would have a fully cooked turkey on our hands. And we always started the day with turkey and dressing sandwiches for breakfast. If you have never had a turkey and dressing sandwich for breakfast, believe me when I say you have no idea what you’re missing.
Throughout the day, we’d have turkey no less than three more times. And we’d put on all four hours of Gone With the Wind, so that Rhett Butler could keep us company while we played endless rounds of Sorry, Monopoly and Yahtzee. Those were good days. They were simple days, but they were ours. They were the kind of days that you just want to hold on to. To somehow freeze in time, so that you can live them over and over and over again. But time, as it does, marches on.
This year will be my first Thanksgiving without my grandma. And I am missing her so much. So I went out and I bought all the ingredients to make her stuffing. But the apples are not golden. We have pecans instead of walnuts. And I still can’t peel in a curly cue. I have no idea how much celery to add or if one onion will be enough. Because she never had a recipe, she just always somehow…..knew. So it’s feeling like there’s something very big missing indeed. And a very large space to fill. Which is funny, because at four-foot eleven, there wasn’t anything big about her at all. But then again, that was just my Grandma Goldie.
Whatever she did, wherever she went…she was always larger than life. And I’m so, so thankful for that.
Wherever you go tomorrow, whoever you’re with…my hope is that you will burn those memories into your heart. That you’ll soak in every second. Hug a little longer. Laugh a little louder. Play one more game of Yahtzee. Hold on to these moments as hard as you can. Because they only come around once.