I had been married a few years. Stacey was 2 and Jeff just a couple months old. We’d recently purchased our first home, and feeling like such a grown up, I wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner. It would be a small group, our young family joined by my mom, dad and brother, Tony.
I excitedly began the planning. I wanted everything to be perfect. I asked my mom to bring her fruit salad, and to make the gravy. Other than that, I had it covered.
I didn’t ask my mom to make the fruit salad because it was hard and I couldn’t do it, but because she always made it ridiculously and deliciously sweet. She would beat the heavy cream then start to add sugar. Being diabetic, she never tasted it, and would ask someone else to help. The ‘taster’ (usually my dad) would always say, “It needs a little more sugar. A little more. More.” When she was finished that cream was so sweet it was sure to cause an unhealthy spike in anyone’s sugar level.
And gravy. I couldn’t make gravy, and even now 30 years later, I still can’t make a decent gravy. It may have to do with my lack of patience and having to stir, and stir, and stir until just the right consistency. Who has time for that? Which is interesting that my mom was so good at it, because she wasn’t typically known for her patience either.
My dinner guests arrived on that special day with my mom ready to help. She pushed up the sleeves of her new holiday sweater in preparation for gravy making. Her first question was, “Where’s the giblets?” The what? “The giblets. You know, they come in a little bag with the turkey. We need to boil them. They give the gravy its flavor.”
I instantly had a flashback of seeing those weird parts boiling on my mom’s stovetop in past Thanksgivings. I always hated those things. They seemed like parts of a turkey one shouldn’t eat. There was that bony neck which really creeped me out, and random unidentifiable parts. My mom would smash up what was maybe a heart or liver (I have no idea) and put them into the gravy. I was a bit relieved they were missing now, although I had no idea where they were.
I responded with, ‘There weren’t any.’ She was persistent, “They come with the turkey, usually inside. Did you rinse the turkey out thoroughly before stuffing it?” ‘Yes, I did. Really well.’ “Okay, well, I guess we’ll just have to make gravy without them. I’ve never done it that way, but we’ll make it work.”
When it came time to start placing the food on the table, and as my mom was scooping out the last bit of stuffing from the turkey, she busted out laughing, “Well look what I found!” Yup, you guessed it. Hidden deep in this dark cavern was a neat little bag of turkey parts! We all had a good laugh.
By the way, the gravy tasted great and I’m sure no one missed those smashed up innards.
I moved to Arizona in 1985 and I looked forward to Thanksgiving with excitement and joy, as my mom and my dad came almost every year to spend Thanksgiving with us. Whenever I could sneak it past her, I’d throw out the giblets (now that I knew where to find them). Occasionally, she’d beat me to it, and we’d have gravy with giblets
My mom passed in 2000. In some ways it seems like yesterday. In other ways, it feels like a hundred years since I’ve heard her voice. I especially miss those times when I'd be having a bad day and out of the blue (?) she’d call to ask, “Is everything okay? I’ve been thinking about you more than usual today.” Not a day goes by that something doesn’t remind me of her. I hold my missing her deep inside without talking about it much. Thanksgiving is the one day of the year I allow myself to say out loud, and I do every year as I’m struggling with the gravy, “I really wish my mom was here.”
I’ve never gotten better at making gravy, and quite honestly, there’s a part of me that doesn’t really want to. That was my mom’s thing, and I’d like to leave it at that.
So, those of you that are blessed to be able to sit across the table from you mom this Thanksgiving Day, please give her a hug and tell her how much you love her. And for those of us that no longer are able to do that, we’ll send that silent wish to our moms in our hearts, knowing she still hears it and feels it, as there is a part of our mother within all of us that is never far away.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.