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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