It’s the week of Thanksgiving. The checklist has begun. (See if this looks like yours!)
- Grocery-shopping: vegetables, turkey, potatoes, bread, apples, butter, sugar, etc., plus all those things you rarely get, like cornstarch, gelatin, cranberries, evaporated milk, and cloves (only to find 2 jars of unopened cloves in the back of your cupboard, dated 2008 and 2011).
- Cleaning the house: the whole house, at one time, which rarely happens. After a day of it, I remember why. Who has this much time for cleaning? The problem is, with extra people at home, I find myself in pick-up mode, like the Cat in the Hat, but without the machinery with large, gloved hands. Which would come in vary handy, right about now.
- Cooking: of course, there’s the big meal on Thursday. But I somehow forget that when I have extra people in my house, I never stop cooking. I crank out big breakfasts and big dinners because that’s what I do when I have guests (and my adult children home). I’d think about just sleeping on the kitchen floor, but it needs to be swept again, and I don’t have time.
- Baking: this is not the same as cooking. This is a joy, an indulgence of time and memory. Baking begins with the aroma of sugar, flour, and cinnamon but ends in the contended connection between the proud baker and her happy recipients. In my house, baking produces smiling men, slipping in and out of my kitchen, swiping cookies and pumpkin bread on their travels, flashing smiles that tell me they love me and they’re happy to be home. Perhaps that’s why my baking memories dig so deep. Baking is standing on a stool in my mother’s kitchen, learning to flour a pan and roll out pie crust. It’s eating dough and sneaking chocolate chips while my mother beams at me. Baking is traveling down memory lane with both delight and daggers.
- Getting out the china, silver, and glassware. This takes more time than expected because I am sentimental about these instruments of fine dining. But I am not a wannabe debutante; that’s not why I go through the trouble. I sit on my dining room rug and pull out my mother’s china and my grandmother’s silver and my great-grandmother’s crystal. I sit and remember. I can smell these ladies and hear them laugh and picture their favorite Thanksgiving dishes. There’s Grandma’s cranberry jello with ginger ale and fruit inside. I can’t baste a turkey without thinking of my Aunt Darleen, crammed into her small kitchen with a turkey as big as she, pulling it out and basting it to savory perfection. There’s my mom’s crowning Thanksgiving achievement (because the recipe’s 4 generations old): cranberry frappe. I think of Mom constantly at Thanksgiving–she’s in the cut-out sugar cookies and the stuffing, the table settings and the aprons, the rolling pin and the candlesticks. She’s everywhere, and I miss her.
- Shopping on Black Friday: I say that I’m staying home this year and shopping on the Internet, but something always draws me out. The allure of an undetected bargain. The scent of Christmas. I’ll be out early and home before people get up. There’s memories in this day, too, of sitting in a frosty car with my mother, both of us laughing at ourselves, so excited to be venturing out early to save a buck. Black Friday was about strategizing with my mom. We spread out like a net of Energizing bunnies in each store. We would converge on the bargains, meet in line, and giggle our way to the next stop. For me, Black Friday is not what it used to be. She’s not here, and people are rude, and I have nothing to buy.
- Choosing the Christmas tree. It’s the day we pick out our tree, or cut it down, or assemble it, depending on the year. But it’s Tree Day, nevertheless, and we love it. Of course, the tree means climbing into the attic and passing down box after box, going through decorations and deciding which ones to toss or put away till next year. It’s wondering how I accumulated so much Christmas stuff. I find my grandmother and mother’s decorations, and the memories begin again.
I forget how much the holidays rewind my life, or how the stress of increased activity and anticipation drains my emotions. Somehow, some way, I need to schedule down time this week–time for thanksgiving, for reflection, for processing the memories.
And there’s the whole point of the holiday. Let’s not forget that. Thanksgiving.
My life–my simple, ordinary life–causes me to be filled with thankfulness. How can I not be grateful for so many memories? For life and health and Christ and freedom?
I am overwhelmed, and it is good. The weight of my blessings exhaust my soul. I will sit and revel in it for one moment. I will say a prayer. And then I will take a crack at that big list.