My mother has been crowding my thoughts these days and I know it is the impending holiday that is bringing her presence to light. I have done well these past few months. I have showed up at work clean and pressed ready for the challenge of the Alzheimer's unit. My precious residents and I have baked apple cake and chocolate cookies, talked about cooking on wood-fired stoves and outdoor privies and churned butter and we pray soft incantations before bed time.
My granddaughter and I find cold-weather substitutions for our outdoor play. We check out the library, the mall (shudder,) the book store, and if the late afternoon sun suffices, the park. She has grown so much since you left us. I can hear you saying, look, look how big she is.
I remember your last coherent day with us. Several pillows were piled at the bottom of the bed. They were used to anchor ice bags against your skin when your body temperature fluctuated and you sweated through the sheets. You saw the jumble of pillows and said, there, there she is! Do you see her? It's Cameron, she's hiding under the sheets! My daughter cries at the foot of your bed. Can I bring the baby here? The doctor is soothing and speaks softly, it may not be best for your child. There! my mother says, she just ran past the bed! I am happy for your fantasy.
I need to find your recipe for cranberry salad and I never did like the stuff. Carrie says we must have this and she is right.
I remember last year walking into your house the day before the holiday and smelling your turkey breast cooking. It was a lovely scent - you had coated the bird with rosemary, garlic, sage, and peppery butter. Your gravy was serviceable to the gods and I cannot repeat what you did but I'll try my best. You cooked for years and I never documented the magic that were your recipes. I guess I always thought you would be here, silly me. You and I would talk about the holiday meal, you with your lists and I,with mine.
I miss you. Our talks, our private jokes, our gossip about those closest to us. We had no secrets, you hid nothing from me and I hid just a few things from you because our roles had become reversed. You were a friend and you were my mother. Not all daughters can claim this distinction. Your death was a substantial loss for me.
So, Sonny and I will go to my daughter's house for the meal. I have ordered three pies from a young woman in Guttenberg who seems to know what she is doing. I cannot cook the turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry salad and the desserts. I just can't, Mom. Even in your darkest, sickest days you were standing in the kitchen, mixing and stirring. We will miss your pecan pie, your pumpkin pie with the walnut-butter-brown sugar filling, your cherry pie criss-crossed with crispy dough for Jimmy. We will gather, your family, and we will toast you and hold close your memory. As long as I am alive you are strong and vibrant in the stories to my grandsons and after my voice has been stilled, you will live a lusty life in the written chronicles I record for my granddaughters.