Around this time of year, I miss my mother tons. I always will. The plus side to her passing is not only do I have these awesome memories of the times we spent together during the holidays, I also get to make new memories with others and be a part of their family. It’s pretty cool.
So with November ending, and December being practically tomorrow, I figured I share some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. I’m going to try to share 30 of them for each day in November…the operational word in this sentence is TRY.
Okay, so it’ll be more like ten.
Here we go:
10. The thanksgiving my sister fell down the stairs.
This is kind of an awful one to start with, but it is still one of my favorites. My mom invited my aunt over, and had spent hours preparing this huge meal. It smelled amazing and WE WERE STARVING. (Sampling the food while it cooked was a crime punishable by being smacked with a soup spoon…on the knuckles). Just before my aunt was to start the thanksgiving blessing, my sister decides to run upstairs to grab something.
Note: We had been sitting around for hours just chatting and NOW she chooses to leave the table as we are about to start eating? I think we all wanted to murder her.
My mother dangerously close to giving into the rumblings of her belly, yelled for her to hurry up or we would start praying without her. As my sister starts to shout for us to wait, we are all interrupted by a loud shriek and then several loud thuds with the loudest ending with a groan. Do we jump up and race to the stairs in concern? No. We laugh. Hard. Then run to the stairs.
There my sister lay, at the bottom of the stairs, groaning that she had probably hurt her butt and arm. We laugh harder and help her up. As my aunt gives the blessing, I am being smacked and my mother whispers that “God is going to get you” because I can’t stop laughing during prayer. The best part? My mother would randomly repeat the sound my sister made falling down the steps throughout dinner. And God’s supposed to get me, right?
We aren’t terrible people. We just find falling really funny in my family.
9. My first thanksgiving without my gallbladder.
I got my gallbladder removed when I was 21. It completely changed my diet to fat free EVERYTHING and took me a long time to adjust. My mom wanted to make sure that I did not feel left out of the gorge fest that was thanksgiving, so she revamped our menu.
Mom: Alexis, I am making the slides completely healthy this year. No butter in the yams, smoked turkey in the greens and black eyed peas, salad, fresh fruit and vanilla soy milk in the mac and cheese.
Me: Okay, mom you really didn’t have to do all that. I’ll be fine. Also vanilla soy milk sounds terrible in mac and cheese. You know they have original right?
Mom: It’ll be fine. We’re eating it. I bet I start a trend…vanilla mac and cheese. You’ll wish you came up with it.
My mom plates our healthy meal, we pray and we all sample the mac and cheese first. My mom looks at me and says: “This is really terrible. You’ll just have to eat healthy all year and cheat on thanksgiving.”
8. My mother guarding the turkey EVERY thanksgiving.
As mentioned earlier, my mom guarded her turkey like rabid dog. My sister and I made several attempts to sample the bird she prepared; each attempt ended in sore knuckles. My sister and I would try anything, crawling, hiding in the pantry, fake deaths. Nothing would sway here from her purpose: protecting that turkey from our greedy hands. Just when we thought the coast was clear and we were oh so close from picking a juicy piece off that turkey, she would come out of no where, spoon in hand.
We finally got smart and hid the spoon. She upgraded to spatula. It was just a losing battle.
7. Every thanksgiving prayer with my Aunt Val.
My Aunt Val loved to bless the meals. She had beautiful prayers…LONG beautiful prayers that were more like sermons. My sister and I would ALWAYS get in trouble when my aunt prayed. We fidgeted. We made faces that we thought no one could see. My aunt would start praying, and after a minute or so, my hand was getting pinched. Or my sisters. I could never figure out how my mother knew, but she knew. I’d open my eyes a little and see that my mothers eyes were closed, but she ALWAYS knew.
Side note: Aunt Val…we love you. We apologize for what we did in hunger; smelling all that food for hours on end and not being able to devour it until after prayer was torture for us kids. We hope you didn’t notice.
6. The thanksgiving my mom let me make my own pumpkin pie.
My mom normally cooked the entire meal by herself. As we got older, she reluctantly released her kung fu grip over that meal and let us help. My mom put me in charge of the pies, and I wanted to make a pumpkin pie. After I finished the sweet potato, I started on the pumpkin pies. Thinking the pie filling came pre-sweetened in the can, I just dumped the contents of can into the pie crust. It was the nastiest pie we’d ever eaten (my mom made us eat it) and got pumpkin pie banned from our house for a few years.
5. The thanksgiving football orange juice incident.
My mom was a diehard football fan. DIEHARD COWBOYS FAN to be exact. Often, our neighbors would come over concerned that someone had fallen or injured themselves from all the screaming that came from our house. Once they found out it was my mother cheering in joy or screaming in agony over a football play, they would roll their eyes and ask us to keep it down.
I was the only person in our household, our family, that was NOT a fan of the Cowboys. I would poke and prod my mother during every interception, missed catch, failed touchdown, etc. One year, my mom got so fed up by my jeering and attempt to turn the channel during the Cowboys game, I got orange juice poured over my head.
I learned to run and made sure no drinks were nearby during Cowboys games.
4. The thanksgiving I met my older siblings.
In March 2006, I got a call during my spring break from Rochelle, my oldest sister from my dads first marriage. We had been looking for them for years and had given up any hope of finding them. When I moved to VA later that year for an internship, I knew I had to see them.
It was a blast.
I got sample chitlins for the first (and last) time. My brother made his first fried turkey and I got to eat it. I got to see where I was born and where my mom and dad were married. I met my nieces, nephews, step siblings and cousins. I met so many family members that I never knew I had and they were so welcoming. It’s something I prayed for a very long time.
3. The first thanksgiving after my mom passed.
My sister and I made plans to be together for thanksgiving and she planned on coming to Fresno. My roommate at the time offered to let us spend turkey day with her…but she was a little nuts (well a LOTTLE nuts). My friend Tara thankfully had also offered and her mother, Laura, is very similar to my mother. So, I accepted the invitation and we had dinner with the Hodges…and Darin.
My sister educated Darin (who I barely knew at the time) on black stereotypes and shared stories about me with the rest of the dinner guests. Darin chucked Tobblerones all over Laura’s living room to her horror. Tara, Darin, my sister and I took a mini Thanksgiving road trip. There was a lot of laughter, teasing, awesome food and I didn’t really think about how much I missed my mother. My sister loved it too.
2. The year my mom spent thanksgiving with me in Fresno.
The costs of cancer treatment caused us to lose pretty much everything. My first year of grad school, I gained my mother as a roommate for a few months. My mom wanted everything from her original menu, black eyed peas, ham hocks, neck bones, collards, mac and cheese, the works. The downside is, I had limited knowledge of the Fresno area, and I wasn’t too sure that we would find everything she wanted.
Our search took us to a Vons (Safeway) on Champlain and Perrin.
One look at our surroundings, I knew we were not going to find what she was looking for.
Me: Mom, I don’t think we will find what you are looking for here.
Mom: Why not? This end of town is really nice for Fresno. I’m sure they offer a bigger variety.
Me: You know that’s not true and we won’t find ox tails here.
Mom: (Loudly) I’m not getting shot today, Alexis. We are NOT going to Fresno’s ghetto. This may be the white part of town, but at least we won’t be robbed.
Me: (Face palm)
After several stores, we ended up finding a Winco in Clovis that had everything she wanted. We made an awesome meal for my friends and we did not get “shot”.
I should mention that my mom was NOT a huge Fresno fan.
1. The thanksgiving my mother “prepared” dinner from her bed.
This was my last thanksgiving with mom. My mom went through chemo and radiation during the holidays. She was sick, but she was determined for us to have a good meal and she was determined to eat it. My sister did most of the cooking, but we managed to make the entire meal with my mom shouting recipes from her bed. The meal was delicious. The only thing that did not make it was the black eyed peas that my sister burnt beyond recognition.
My mom cracked on those black eyed peas the entire meal, but she was proud of us. It was a great meal, and it gave me a new respect for my sister. We’d been through a lot that year, and had a lot of loss, but in that moment it didn’t matter because we were together.
Burnt black eyed peas and all :).