My husband didn’t marry me for my mad cooking skills.
That just wasn’t a gift that came naturally to me. Over the years, I’ve gotten the hang of it. But we were just three months into our marriage when that first Thanksgiving rolled around. All I really knew how to make back then was spaghetti, salad, and scrambled eggs, and the thought of cooking a turkey was keeping me up at night.
I’d stare at the ceiling in the dark and think about my mother-in-law. She was Master of the Kitchen, and every night in her gourmet kitchen, she cooked a feast for dinner. I remember meals like fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and cabbage being served up on a Wednesday night. Tuesday was always fish night, with spaghetti on the side. Every evening was like Sunday dinner and Paula Deen had nothing on this woman.
So that’s what I was up against.
At least that’s how I first thought about it. Pitting me against her in my mind, and trying to compete.
I’d wrung my hands and paced the floor far too many times to count, when suddenly I realized this was not about the meal. This was more about the feelings of Thanksgiving. The family gathering together to lift the lids and taste the gravy and sneak a slice of sugared apple as it waited to be added to the pie. The hands held ’round the table and the heads bowed low in awe of grace.
And so I gulped and dialed familiar numbers, and smiled to hear the voice that answered from five hundred miles away. We danced around the small talk for a moment and then I heard myself say, “I wanted to invite you to Thanksgiving dinner.” The words – they traveled through the line and as they left my heart I knew that this was what I really wanted…food that soothes my soul. The love of people who have known me best and love me still, filling our tiny “married housing” kitchen in a seminary on a hill.
Then – before I knew it – I said, “I thought I’d bring the cranberry sauce.” She and I both laughed out loud at that, and she nearly leaped at the invitation.
That Thanksgiving, our tiny home was the gathering place for family from both sides. She brought turkey and stuffing and all of the fixin’s packed in the trunk of her car. And on Thanksgiving we worked together and she was filled with grace. We were partners in the kitchen and I learned well from her.
When we reminisce about that phone call, made more than two decades ago, we still laugh out loud; and if we’re together when we remember the story, she’ll reach out her hand and look in my eyes and we agree it was one of the best Thanksgivings we will ever know.
By Deidra, Jumping Tandem
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Michelle DeRusha says
I love, love, love this! Just last year my mother-in-law stood next to me at the kitchen sink and showed me how to rinse out a turkey and remove all the yuckies, and pat it dry, stuff it with veggies, rub it with butter and seasoning and bake it golden. As I shopped before Thanksgiving this year I thought long and hard about her as I stood before the turkey case. We miss her so much this year, but I will never forget all the gifts she lavished on us. Teaching me how to prepare a turkey is just one of many, many.
What a beautiful post. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, dear friend.
Today, as I spread olive oil and seasonings on our Thanksgiving turkey, I wondered what young woman would stand beside me at the sink one day, and what I might be able to share with her. These cycles of life are so precious and mysterious. My prayers are with you and your family this Thanksgiving.
Living the Balanced Life says
Such a sweet story! I am not a cook and neither was my mother, lol! I learned a bit in the early years from my MIL, I am grateful for that, and so is my hubby!
Thanksgiving is still hosted at my SIL, but it won’t be long before it is at my house. Then the “heat is on!”
I’m sure my husband is quite pleased with all of the cooking tips I received from his mom. I’ve come a long way in the 25 years since that first Thanksgiving! Whew!
I learned much from my mother-in-law. So few speak of MILs except as jokes that it is a beautiful and rare thing to read a piece like this. Thank you for this addition my Thanksgiving day as I am savoring much.
My mother-in-law has been a gift to me. She tells me that the relationship she had with her MIL was unpleasant, so she vowed to be better when her turn came. I count it a blessing that I have become the benefactor of that vow. One day I’ll have the chance to pay that forward.
Kristen@Moms Sharpening Moms says
I adore you, Deidra! You are wise beyond words, and clearly you’ve always been a smart cookie! While we may never do Thanksgiving dinner together, I would love to sit with you over any meal (shoot…I’d settle for tea!) and soak up your wisdom!
Girlfriend, the feeling is mutual!
And though we may never share a Thanksgiving dinner, I am sure that one day we will feast together at a magnificent banquet table!
So often we get bogged down in the things we think we “can’t” or “don’t” do well. I love that you had the wisdom to remember what Thanksgiving is really about, swallow your pride, and offer to host Thanksgiving dinner.
I am better at doing dishes & scrubbing a kitchen till it shines any day than preparing a feast, so this resonated with me.
Thanks for sharing this story with us!
You’re right. It helps to know where our strengths lie. It sounds as if I could use a lesson from you on shining up a kitchen. ; )
I Live in an Antbed says
Oh, that is so precious! I felt the same way when cooking for my mother in law (aka: Betty Crocker) during the early years of our marriage. You are so wise to recognize what was truly important. What a sweet relationship with your mother-in-law! I am so blessed to have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law.
Dena Dyer says
I felt your pain, girl! 🙂 I am not a cook but right after we were married, I had my in-laws over to our tiny seminary apt. and cooked the best meal I knew how to. It turned out well, and they loved it. Since then, my hubby has taken up the kitchen and I do all the dishes. It works out great. And the in-laws? Yesterday, my MIL made a MAD Southern feast and I cleaned like a madwoman. 🙂
A Southern feast?!?! That makes my heart go all a-flutter!
My husband cooked for most of the first part of our marriage and let me tell you, he is really good at it. He – of course – learned first hand from his mother.
Nebraska girl says
Loved hearing your story last Sunday and then reading it again here! What a happy memory! Hope your Thanksgiving was blessed, my friend!
Holley Gerth says
Deidra, I’m just getting home (and back online) after a Thanksgiving with a mother-in-law much like yours. This year I got to make the pies and it seemed like a huge step. 🙂 You said it so well–the best dish we can serve up is LOVE.
Wow, this is beautiful. Stunningly beautiful and honest. Thank you for sharing this sweet memory with us!
What a beautiful memory. I remember being there with you, Nano and the rest of the family. Love definitely abounded. We are all so tremendously bleesed to have Nano as your MIL and our treasured family sister in Christ.
Happy Thanksgiving Nano. You are loved so much.
Happy Thanksgivng, Dee. You are a beautiful, loved and cherished daugher and DIL.