The other day a coworker asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving.
She asked if I usually cook Thanksgiving. It struck me as an odd question. Who else would cook?…I am the mom…after all.
“Yes, I have cooked, give or take a year, for the past 27 years.”
Her eyes got big, “Wow, I never cook Thanksgiving.” Now I was intrigued. She is a mom too. How did she pulled that off?
She explained that the first time she cooked a turkey it wasn’t fully cooked when she served it, so her family didn’t want her to be responsible for the next years, or any year after thats’ holiday meal.
Brilliant. Why had’t I thought of that? I had, after all, accidentally burned the first shirt my then husband asked me to iron resulting in his never asking again. I had the paradigm. I saw how it worked. I didn’t take the hint.
Later that same day, when rescheduling a client, I offered a session the week of Thanksgiving. She declined explaining she will be too busy preparing for Thanksgiving. She was cooking.
I thought of the many Thanksgiving weeks that I worked in Pittsburgh while living in Chalk Hill. An hour and a half commute that I returned home from on Wednesday night around 6 or 7. I had made the stuffing, nut bread, and cranberry bread and shopped the weekend before so all that needed to be done to get dinner on the table in the next 20 hours was par boil, peel and make the white sauce for the creamed onions; peel, boil and mash the potatoes; prepare and boil the green beans to toss into the sautéed garlic and chopped shallots; whip the heavy cream into perfect decadence; put the leaf in the table and set it for 8-10 friends and family; panic because every year I seemed to forget the cornucopia themed paper napkins leaving me with Scott Every Days to design the Martha Stewart wannabe table; oh yeah, stuff and cook the turkey.
Apple and pumpkin pie was deliciously prepared by my then Husband. I never learned how to make pies, so he did. (Hint, hint.) Kathleen brought the sweet potato casserole. Heidi another dessert and/or vegetable.
This is what I expected of myself. And soon it became what my family expected also. I trained them well. It never occurred to me that it was too much to do or that I could do less. Especially when working a full week. Out of town no less.
It is Thanksgiving again with Christmas right around the corner. And you know I am no easier on myself at Christmas. I usually begin asking myself, sometime the morning of December 26th, why I do this to myself year after year, concluding with my traditional New Years Resolution promising not do so much in the new year.
I do it for other reasons too. I do it for the sake of tradition, so my kids have endearing holiday memories, because my mom cooked Mama B’s cornbread stuffing and creamed onions, although she did not work outside of the home and the tension at the well set table of china and sterling usually made dinner a fast and furious event, because when all the preparations are complete and the people I love most in the world are sitting around the table, I feel sweetly and fully blessed.
Yesterday I was offering to teach Jena how to make her great grandmothers Alabama corn bread stuffing. (Perhaps unconsciously passing the torch…PLEASE.) Jena said she was planning on being one of those people that never learned to cook. (She does seem to date guys that love to cook.) I heard myself judgmentally ask,”How do you think that will be for your kids?” My question shamed her into retracting her statement saying she was only kidding.
As I retold this exchange to Tom I owned how sexist it was of me to assume holiday traditions will be her responsibility.
So how does a mom do it? Create tradition, if that is important to her, and not exhaust herself in the process? Ask for more help? Do less? Care less? It is a labor of love that can end in tired resentment.
I would love to hear your ideas. How do you do it?
And Happy Happy Thanksgiving!