Blessings and Memories

As we prepare our homes for the upcoming holiday season, I’m grateful to have one special day set aside to give thanks to God for His many blessings. Gratitude is a daily practice for me, but there is so much in life that I take for granted.

Once Upon a Time

Holidays weren’t always as complicated as they are today. Before the arrival of the internet, cell phones and video games, Thanksgiving was about bringing family together. It was all about the food, the chatter around the table, and friendly football rivalries.

Thanksgiving brings back so many fond childhood memories for me. Sometimes we traveled to my grandparents’ house. Other years we drove to visit my aunts and uncles. My mom was always busy in the kitchen with her sisters, while my brother and I played with cousins we rarely saw. But my dad was always the odd man out. Being an only child, he never seemed comfortable around so many relatives. Making matters worse, he hated football, and that was the only thing on TV after the turkey dinner.

When it was our turn to host Thanksgiving dinner, our living room became a makeshift dining room. Card tables were joined together from one end of the room to the other, laden with fancy glass platters and bowls of delicious foods. There was a lot of laughter, and many stories shared from the “olden days”. It was also a day to catch up on family news while the coffee percolated in the kitchen. Sometimes my dad pulled out his slide projector and we re-visited vacations and holidays from years gone by. (That was social media, 1970’s style.) And he was happy because there was no football. The tables were blocking the view of our black and white TV.

Fast Forward

This year I am looking forward to another Thanksgiving with both children at home with us. Still, it will be a bittersweet day because there will be an empty chair at the table. My mom is no longer able to leave the nursing home to spend holidays with us. Her memory has declined further this past year, and any change in routine can be very stressful. She remembers some faces, but few names. Mom’s absence will be painful, especially for my brother. He has been her caregiver for many years. But in her honor, we will continue one of her favorite Virginia traditions. We will decorate our Christmas tree after dinner.

Life is always changing. I’m sure there will be years with more empty seats around our table. But there will also be years when tables are once again placed end-to-end to accommodate growing families and new friends. There will be laughter and reminiscing about my “olden days” and the ancient technology of the 1990’s, pre-Instagram. And sorry, Dad, but there will always be football.

While we cannot slow the march of time, we can control the pace of our holidays together.

  • Create new family traditions, but hang tight to the old.
  • Play a game together that doesn’t require batteries or a controller.
  • Dust off old photos albums and replay childhood videos.
  • Have that second cup of coffee and another slice of pie.
  • Enjoy the laughter and conversation. (The dishes will wait.)

This Thanksgiving, as I linger over every last bite of turkey, mashed potato and apple pie, I plan to be fully present with my family.

I wish you and your loved ones a Thanksgiving full of grace and abundance.

Food = Love

Food.

We dream about it, talk about it, and even have television networks dedicated to it. Sweet, savory, or spicy, ethnic, vegan or fusion. Whatever our preference may be on a given day — we love it all!

But despite all the hours we spend consuming food, very few people actually enjoy cooking their own food.  Many will do whatever is necessary to avoid standing in front of the stove. It’s much easier to drive-thru, make a reservation, or order take-out.

Family Feasts

For just a moment though, let’s think about my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! It’s just around the corner and I’m already looking forward to it. But beyond the festive table settings, and dishes laden with delicious food (and the football game we will sleep through afterward), it’s all about the people we love seated around that table.

Thanksgiving Memories, 2017

 

My mother-in-law raised five children, so she cooked meals for a small army. By the time I arrived on the scene, everyone was grown and flown. But family meals were still a regular occurrence. I can’t say whether cooking was a favorite chore in the Manausa household, but it was always a group effort. Everyone pitched in, and like my own dad, my father-in-law did his share of the cooking!

Several family meals became my favorites. “Chuck’s Everyday Waffles” were extra-delicious because they were full of bacon, with a little bit of bacon grease blended into the batter. Truth be told, I’d be in big trouble if I ate them every day. And his fish fries were wonderful family gatherings too, with his own fresh catch on the dinner menu. “Macaroni Mess” was really what we youngsters called American Chop Suey, only there was bacon in that too. Because, as the saying goes . . . bacon makes everything better.

Memorable Meals

Ketchup was always on the table in the Manausa household, particularly if my husband was coming to dinner. (True story: at my bridal shower, my future mother-in-law presented me with half a case of Heinz Ketchup and a can of K2R Spot Remover. It was an ominous sign.) I never really knew if the condiment was meant to enhance the flavor or hide it.

My in-laws have since passed away, but I fondly remember those meals that often ended with a long evening of conversation and cards. It was a time for jokes and laughter, but also a time for sharing stories and giving and receiving advice. I treasured every moment, especially in my early years as a newlywed.

🍴 🍴 🍴

Fast forward 37 years.

Cooking a meal takes planning and preparation, but I actually look forward to it now. I keep adding new skills, testing new gadgets, and trying new flavors. It’s a lot more fun now that it’s not  just another daily chore.

I enjoy cooking for myself when no one else is around, but most of all, I enjoy cooking for those I love. And thankfully, the ketchup usually stays in the pantry. ❤️

Morning Omelet with Bacon, Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Spinach