One Last Time

I couldn’t help but think about my mother this Thanksgiving. I thought about the many meals she planned just for her family to come celebrate with her all the things she was thankful for. She didn’t have the happiest of childhoods, she lived through the depression and life with my dad was difficult because he suffered from a mental illness. Still, she was thankful she made it through all she did.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, she would grab a couple of used envelopes and on the back of one envelope, she would write everyone’s names . On the other, she would write her shopping list. She had rather large handwriting, so, in the end, the whole envelope would be written on.

She would go to the store, bring home the groceries and hide anything she thought we might get into before she cooked, like the colored marshmallows for her cathedral cookies or the large marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Mother began to cook. As she  cooked, the house filled with the savory aroma of a big old Tom Turkey roasting in the roaster,. That roaster sat on the washing machine while it cooked that turkey to perfection.. She had a humongous bowl in which she mixed the dressing. She made two  extra large dishes of it. Her dressing was by far the best thing she made. There was  a time when I realized it would be prudent to get the  recipe if I wanted to carry on the tradition.

“I won’t know how to make it after you are gone and no one will know how to make it,” I told her.

“Well, I just put in a pinch of salt, some sage, bread crumbs, chicken stock, you know.”

“Yeah, but how much of it? I need measurements.”

“Honey, I don’t measure it, I just know how much to put in.”

“Can’t you just measure it and tell me?”

“I wouldn’t know how.”

I never learned that dressing recipe and I have tried to duplicate it as best as I can, but to no avail. Now that my mother is gone, so is the dressing I loved so much. Oh, what I would give to have just one more Thanksgiving with Mother. The cooking, the laughter, the late nights with her during the holidays-now gone, but never forgotten.







I’m not sure how to feel about the holidays coming up. No, I didn’t misspell my title. I feel weird about them tonight. I guess I am feeling some sort of identity crisis- maybe I’ve lost whatever I thought the holidays are supposed to be.

You see, growing up, my house (well, my mom and dad’s house) was full  of relatives. Thanksgiving? My mom’s family over for dinner, which was always at noon-one o’clock should there be late-comers. (there were always latecomers.) After my mom’s family left, the next day or so , my dad’s family would come. Maybe not for dinner, but at least to visit. Needless to say, I’ve always associated the holidays with a full house of family and friends.

Last night, my husband found a video of a Christmas spent, as usual, with my mother. Just our family- my family of origin and our extended families around the Christmas  tree. My four grandsons-still just little boys, my daughter and her husband, Sean (now deceased, sadly), my sister and her family and my mother. How wonderfully bittersweet it was to see everyone together. There was my mother, complaining about having her photo on the video and Sean saying the new jacket would fit if he could lose ten pounds. No one was aggravated, there was lots of laughter, it was great to hear their voices again and see their faces. It was a reminder to me that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I have felt pretty solemn since I saw the video. All of us laughing, having fun, being surprised – just being a family. We were oblivious to anything bad or sad. Within about two years of that video,,my husband’s mother and  my mother went to be with the Lord and then so did Sean. Our family forever changed.

Now, I have my kids, all married- going their own way this Thanksgiving – and I’m happy they are able to do that. So, it will be me, Stephen and Father Charlie this year for Thanksgiving. Maybe David will  come. I hope so. Even though it is family, I’m a bit dazed and confused since the house will not be full to the brim. I am so thankful, though that each of my children have spouses who love them and feel good about being able to go to their other family’s houses for Thanksgiving.

What a great time to find a long lost video- just as we all celebrate our gratitude, I was able to see and hear the voices of those I loved so much. While I am celebrating my living family members, I will celebrate the fact that God gave me other people who have gone on to His house before me.

So, while you are celebrating gratitude, remember to tell your family and friends how much they mean to you-how much you love them. I don’t think we can ever say it too much. Happy thanksgiving!

However Dysfunctional, There was Fun!

Everyone’s family has a bit of dysfunction in it. It’s okay. Ours was that way too. But, I like to think we put the “fun” in dysfunctional. We all loved to laugh- my mother most of all. So, you can imagine how confused I was when my mother declared my lifelong friend, Kim Gibson Wallis and I “as silly as blackbirds.” I mean, after all, where did she think I learned it ? No matter, the truth of the matter was that Kim and I thought it incredibly funny! Funny, funny, funny.

As long as I can remember, we had dinners for my mom’s side of the family at our house all the time. My mother and her sister, Ginny, alternated years as to who would host the Christmas dinner. It really didn’t matter, I don’t think to us kids where it was, just as long as it was.  It was our time to see each  other and play like the wild kids we wished we could be all the time.

If we were at Ginny’s house, then my cousin, Matt would be in charge of what we played and stuff. After all, he did live there and he would be the one to get into trouble (mostly) if we did stuff we weren’t supposed to. Younger readers may be confused because we were actually outside, in the sunshine, running, chasing, playing and teasing one another. Yes, that’s what I said- Outside. Sunshine. Playing. All those things kids barely know the meaning of anymore. Well, anyway, no matter whose house we were at (Texan phraseology, i’m afraid), one game was a constant- “Big Kids Run From the Little Kids.” I never was much of a runner, in fact, I was the last one chosen on a team of any sorts at school recess, but I could outrun the little kids! When Gary, my mom’s brother’s kid, his sisters, Jayne and Amy got to come, it was so much fun! Gary, Matt, Phil (Matt’s brother)  and I ran away from poor Jayne and Amy.  Of course, it wasn’t long til Jayne was “one of us.”

A Holiday dinner at our house
A Holiday dinner at our house

Oh my gosh! Our parents could just look at each other and start laughing- something their offspring can do as well. It was always fun to know someone else was thinking the same thing at

Being silly and laughing was a genetic trait for us
Being silly and laughing was a genetic trait for us

the same time. Ever happen to you?

Of course, with all of us, there was the “odd, but lovely” relative. This would be our Aunt Dillie. She came to be Aunt Dillie because someone as a baby couldn’t say Nellie. So, Dillie it was. We kinda made alot of fun of poor old Dillie, because she could sniff more times in a row than anyone else in the world!  Not only that, but she could burp louder than a guy and we thought it was hysterical. Of course, not to her face. We held it til we were out of the room and then we’d really let the hysteria go.

Turns out, poor old Dillie, unbeknownst to us at such an early age, had been set to marry a young man and he left her at the alter. So, these interesting traits of hers probably came about after the fact. She never married or had a gentleman suitor again. Tragic, really. However, as in Shakespeare, some tragedies are comedy and we thought she was plenty funny.

I am reminiscing because my cousin , Gary, will be spending the weekend with me. For the Fourth of July. I haven’t seen him in years and I am so excited to see him. Because it is a holiday, it reminds me of being a kid, looking out the window , waiting for him to arrive- waiting impatiently for the fun to begin!