It’s late and soon I’ll have a pot of greens slow cooking on the stove and sweet potato bites in the oven. The house is filling with wonderful aromas of sweet and spice.
Watching television as I strip the greens, she comes to me, memories flooding my senses. Stripping greens was one of the first jobs my mother gave me for Thanksgiving dinner. I think it kept me out of her hair while she cooked. I loved watching her move about the kitchen. She was so graceful, always so graceful. Later, I graduated to mashed potatoes, then I mastered gravy. But I cleaned the greens first.
When I was little, we’d rotate the holiday between us. One year it would be at ours, the next it would be at my Mom’s sister and her husband. Whoever hosted cooked the turkey. The sisters would split the long list of side dishes and desserts right down the middle, calling each other multiple times to decide what’s what and who was making Grandma’s Corn Puddin. There would be no last minute problems on their menus. As if.
More and more memories sit a spell and visit: her smiling as she shows her granddaughter how to crack open an egg for the first time. She’s stops cleaning long enough to teach me how to do the mash potato, laughing and dancing as she cleans to the music. I see all of us sitting around the table, laughing over who spilled the paint in the laundry room. I hear her yell angrily at the “Hail Mary that killed Thanksgiving in DC”. That’s when she declared, “From now on, nobody is eating while the game is on anymore”.
She’d get excited because Daddy was frying a turkey in the backyard and she thought fried turkey was the best thing Uncle Harold ever taught Daddy to do. Mostly she was happy because family was coming over. She would always treasure those times. So would I.
That last year, Turkey day happened the week after we found out Mom was sick. Nobody was thankful then. Because even though she had just been diagnosed, we chose to hold her religious beliefs and my disappointment in her closer than we held our family.
Mom was angry with me for coming out of the closet when the truth is I was actually pushed out. And I was angry with her for wanting me to stay in there. Negative energy filled any room we were in together. And we didn’t know how not to argue in front of my kids. It was easier for me if I stayed away.
I thought I’d have more time with her. Time to heal us, Time for her to get use to the new me. I so was wrong.
She was in the hospital for most of December. Not having her there for Christmas dinner felt like the family’s heart was missing. Mom was home by New Year’s Eve, but I could tell she wasn’t okay. And I knew nothing was going to be the same.
Not being there for Thanksgiving, seeing that empty chair where she should have been at Christmas, made me change my mind, made me want to be there with her in the middle of our anger, our difference. Because being in the middle of that ugly with her still felt better than being without her.
If had continued to stay away, I would have let my pride and my righteous anger get in the way of learning who she was as a woman, get in the way of her seeing me.
Eventually, gradually, we started to see the Love in each other. Hot tears spilled as I thought about how I almost missed hearing her say she loved me for the last time. I almost missed it. Almost.
Whether it’s the family you were born to or the family you made, you’re wondering if you get through the opinion “salad” before you say something you can’t take back.
Talk about a movie, the weird weather last weekend or someone doing something foolish. Somebody somewhere is always doing something foolish.
Yeah, I know. I can’t stand him either… So stop. Don’t go there. You can to hold your differences. Leave them with the coats on the guest bed or hide them behind the short bush in the side yard. Collect them later. Don’t worry – they’ll will be waiting for you when you’re ready for the ride home.
If you’re too far away physically, mentally or emotionally, at least call. Pick up the damn phone! They need to hear the Spark of Love in your voice. And quiet as it’s kept, you need to hear their love too.
If they’re no longer in the body, call out to their spirits. The Source that binds everything will help you send them love and healing energy.
But if you can, go. Have dinner. Sit down for a meal, some love and try to remember that you are family. If you can’t bring yourself to go for dinner, go for dessert. That’s at least something.
Just make sure you eat before the late game starts. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.