Thanks For The Memories

I was late calling my parents for Thanksgiving. The day had has been a non-stop whirlwind of activity and had just gotten away from me. So I called them on Friday hoping that they weren’t upset that I was behind in calling them. They weren’t. Their Thanksgiving had been a busy one as well. They are currently on the east coast and had celebrated with my brother and his wife’s family.

I talked with my dad for a bit before he ran out of things to say and handed me over to my mother. Mom and I chatted about this and that before the holiday was even mentioned. Then Mom wanted to know all the details. Who did we spend the holiday with, which house was it at, and what my favorite part of the day was. Then she wanted to know what we ate.

“Did you have Glorified Rice?” she asked.

“No” I answered. “I don’t think there is anyone that really likes it. Besides, I can never get the rice to stay soft.” Glorified Rice was the one dessert that my grandmother absolutely had to make for family gatherings. It was a strange combination including white rice, heavy cream, marshmallows, pineapple chunks and maraschino cherries. As a child, it was my absolute favorite. I remember eagerly helping Grandma slice the cherries in half and being allowed to use her ancient hand-held mixer to whip the cream until my arm ached. After Grandma died, we tried to recreate the heavenly treat using her recipe card from her trusty recipe box. It was never the same. The flavors were there, but the rice always turned into little pebbles no matter how long we cooked it or what we tried.

“Well, how about 7-Up Jello Salad? Did you make that?” Mom asked.

“Yes, of course we made that. It’s Mimi’s very favorite.” I answered. My youngest daughter, Mimi, had come over after work and then again first thing in the morning so she could help make her favorites. One of which is 7-Up Jello Salad. This is another odd traditional dish in our family. I always think of my aunt who found the recipe originally. Of course I have no idea where she found it, possibly a magazine, a church cookbook or given to her by a friend. Who know? Regardless, the combination of 7- Up, lemon Jello, pineapple and cream cheese is always at our holiday table.

“I bet you had Cherries in the Snow, didn’t you?” Mom sighed. All I know about the origins of this layered concoction of angel food cake, cream cheese and cherry pie filling, is that my dad used to give out recipe cards when he was a realtor, and this was one of them. In fact, I still have a “Hometown Realty presents” recipe card with Dad’s name on it. For some reason, it always make me grin.

I’ve always felt that Thanksgiving was the one holiday dedicated to our friends and family. We are supposed to think about all the things in our life that we should be thankful for. What I hadn’t quite grasped was that the warm feelings associated with this special meal wasn’t because I was thinking about how grateful I was. Nor was it because the food was so amazing. The most remarkable thing about this meal was the memories and the love behind each and every dish sitting on our table.

I thought of all the dishes we made and the stories behind them. I smiled at the thought of my dear friend Susan teaching me how to make the Cranberry Orange Relish when our kids were tiny, Jeanne’s famous pies, the Spiced Cranberry Sauce that Sue introduced me to just last year, the Green Bean Casserole my friend Kathy always included, the stuffing Mom taught me how to make, and the turkey (cooked in a bag) that Grandpa got out his electric knife to carve each year. So many people have made their indelible mark on what I always thought was merely a traditional meal. I truly am thankful to have had all those people in my life.

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