In case you haven't seen a calendar lately, I will clue you in on a little something... Thanksgiving is next week, folks.
Several years ago, when I was young and still relatively naive (or stupid, whichever term you prefer), I decided to take on Thanksgiving for my husband's family. At the time, they didn't have much of a tradition, and the first time I went to eat at a buffet in a hotel restaurant, I knew that as soon as we had a place that would accomadate the number of people, I would host Thanksgiving.
My first time to host, I don't think my mother-in-law was certain I could handle all the cooking. I had never done a turkey, after all, and never made a skillet of cornbread much less put together dressing. So she offered to do the turkey and dressing and bring it, and I did the vegetables and rolls and tea. All went well, but I felt like I had jipped myself out of an adult Southern woman experience. So I declared that I would be doing the bulk of the following Thanksgiving, and that's just what I did.
I got a recipe for cornbread dressing from an old co-worker that seemed easy enough. I will never forget reading over it and being so confused at first because it hadn't dawned on me that the recipe was for baking the cornbread and then the second part was what you did with the cornbread once you made it. See there... young, naive, and stupid. But I figured it out, and I tried the recipe on Scott for lunch one day before November rolled around, and it was surprisingly tasty. In fact, no one could have been more surprised than I was in the moment that I tasted that cornbread dressing and realized it was actually good.
I purchased my turkey and thawed the big bird out in the kitchen sink according to package directions. And then I did what any old Southern youngin' would do with a big raw turkey... I called my mom to come over and help me. She reached her hand inside the gut of Mr. Turkey and pulled out all the stuff I was afraid to touch. And then she retrieved the neck from the other side. She showed me how to rinse it rub it down with oil while I curled my nose up at the notion of having to touch what once was covered with feathers and made funny noises.
But I did it. And the next year, I had the complete turkey experience all by myself, putting my hands in the strange places and rinsing and preparing. I can remember talking to my mother on the phone and her saying, "You did it? You pulled out the giblet packet and the neck?" Why, yes, I had, and I was darn proud of myself.
She was proud of me, too.
My first turkey. I think about him every year when I am preparing for a new Thanksgiving. This year, I am remembering how much she helped me through those first years and how proud she was when she saw I could do it all by myself.
Sure do miss that lady.