November 23, 2011

They Were Simple Days, But They Were Ours

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.

  1. Gail

    I know how you feel love, I know how you feel.

  2. Nancy Mitchell

    I wish you and Justin nothing but the best tomorrow and thanks for sharing, because YES I will be playing one more board game/cards with my kids and soaking up all the memories while I can! Hugs to you from afar! xoxo~nance

  3. athena p

    Grandmothers are amazing. they way in which, each time we crawl into their laps for a snuggle, or fall into their arms for an embrace, their lock their smile, their smell, their home inside our hearts. It sticks. Forever. My grandma’s been missing for ten Thanksgivings. Ten Toms. When I close my eyes I can barely remember the curves of her face, or the color of her eyes. Were they blue or brown? I don’t remember the way she smelled, unless I catch a whiff of the Avon Night Musk that she wore…or baby powder. Always with the baby powder. But I can remember how it *felt* to be near her. Snuggled in her lap, her soft hands tickling my back while we watched her "stories." Or how, when I’d spend a few weeks at her place in the summers, we’d eat turkey sandwiches with pickles and cottage cheese on the side. Every. Single. Day. But it never got old. We’d play Uno, and gossip about the conniving gents on As The World Turns. We’d go into town and thrift through the five and dime store-she’d give my brother and I change so we could pick out some penny candy. Creatures of habit we always bought the gummy worms.

    I miss her. A lot. Often.

    Thank you. For sharing the story of your Grandma. Of your times that are etched into the fibers of your soul and playing on loop in your memory. It helps me remember my Helen. And how very much she mattered. How very very much she is missed.

    Happiest of Thanksgivings to you, Justin, and *your* Tom. Cheers to the berth of a new tradition stuffed with all the best stuff from the old one.

  4. Caitlin

    Thank you for this, the reminder and the beautiful words. Teared up so much at the last two paragraphs that I had to stop reading for a minute. "But time, as it does, marches on." Whew. Indeed. I love thinking of you channeling Grandma Goldie in your cooking, she’ll be with you that way. Wishing you both a happy, happy thanksgiving.

  5. Jessica

    Beautifully written! As always! Have a fabulous thanksgiving!

  6. Susan

    Beautiful, Mary. Treasure those memories, make new ones, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  7. Shannon Sorensen

    I’ve already been having a weepy day, and your post added to it, my dear. Sean and I will be spending tomorrow on our own, and it’s tough to not be surrounded by our loved ones with the traditions we grew up with. But we make it our own. And it’s just as special in it’s own way.

    I’m very sorry about your grandma, M, she sounds like a wonderful lady to have known. She will be with you tomorrow, helping you with your stuffing. Even if it’s not the same, it’ll be perfect.

  8. Jessica Frey Photography

    Such a sweet post full of emotion – you have a gift of words and having those memories are what it’s all about. This is my first year as well without my grandma and my mom is hoping to teach me how to make her stuffing….fingers crossed, but I’m mostly excited to do it with my mom and cherish her through her cooking. Thanks for a post that hits home and Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Monty Jessop

    I’m feeling you Mary, keep the faith sweetie your Grandma is in you and is a large reason for the special person your are! Have a wonderful thanksgiving. Give Justin a big hug for me! xo

  10. Christa Hann

    Be thankful for these sweet simple memories :) They’re what life are made of. Good luck with the stuffing.

  11. Linda Kuo


  12. Emma Russell

    What a beautiful post Mary. Wishing you both a very happy Thanksgiving. x

  13. Kristin

    That’s a really sweet (and probably yummy) way to honor her. And Mary, if you can’t do the curly peels by hand, you could always get a counter top apple/potato peeler/corer/slicer (They have a bunch of options on Amazon.). :) Happy Thanksgiving.

  14. Ashley Terry

    Beautiful! I’m sure she would be honored by this. Isn’t it funny how we all have different stories but we all connect over a simple day where we sit around and eat? Hope you’re Thanksgiving is lovely.

  15. Jil

    a wonderful tribute.

  16. Shannon Rosan

    This brought tears to my eyes. I hope you, Justin and Cooper have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

  17. Elizabeth

    awwww it’s always the Holidays when you miss the ones you love the most…it will be 3rd thanksgiving without my mom and 5th without my dad (but whose counting?) I still miss them, I still cry (privately). But know she is looking down and will guide you for the rest of your life….Happy Thanksgiving J&M

  18. amanda

    Whew, Mary. The first holiday without Grandma is hard, I feel you on that one girl. But your beautiful memory of your grandma has brought up in my mind so many memories of my own grandma. Here’s to remembering, and just one more shared apple. <3

  19. Paul Manke

    My mother and grandmother are gone. This time of year makes the memories come out in full force.

    She will be there right by your side; making sure your celery and onions are added perfectly!

    She’ll be there, right there.

  20. Kare

    Your words make my cry, but I"m glad you write them – so you will always remember Grandma Goldie and your special bond. xoxo

  21. Erin

    Beautiful post, Mary. One that definitely rings true with my life, as well, since I lost my grandmother, Bugga, two years ago. I hope y’alls Thanksgiving was lovely and that the memories of your grandmother guided you in making her dressing.

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