Waking to the sweet smell of celery and onion cooking in my mother’s big black iron skillet on the stove I remember a child's almost hysterical excitement under all the hustle and bustle of a holiday's preparation. The always-huge pink turkey would be splayed on the kitchen counter, marinated, washed, patted dry and rubbed with salt, pepper and sage, waiting to receive its stuffing; a miraculous tasting (even raw!) mixture of bread crumb, sage, onion, salt, pepper, celery and egg, The entire sight was a wondrous thing when your head barely came past the counter height, wondrous more now as I recall the delight in all of it.
I recall the day passing in a set of nervous pacings in and out of the warm kitchen, back and forth in front of the stove. “Is it done yet? Is it done yet? Huh? Huh? Is it done yet?” we’d ask, like travel-weary children. Occasionally we’d stand, on tippy-toe, peering around from in back of one of our parents as they opened the oven door to check on the bird’s progress. It’s progression from cold carcass to steaming hot table-ready usually took until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. By that time the table had been set with my mother’s finest china, her best polished silver and her gleaming crystal. The hue and cry of the final kitchen flurry died away as we settled down into the meal.
One more thing. Before she left the kitchen my mother would put her pies into the warm oven. This did two things. First, their fragrant smells of cinnamon and nutmeg would waft from the kitchen into the house and next, a second, more subdued anticipation would be created. Smart woman, my mom. There was always room for dessert.
Remembering all this, I am struck by how the anticipation and preparation far outshines, in my memory, the actual event. But isn’t that true many times in life? The best part of a trip, for me, is the anticipation of it and then, finally, the return home.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!