“My mom doesn’t make stuffing.” he said.
“Excuse me? I’m sorry I don’t think I heard you… correctly. Did you just say, your Mom doesn’t make stuffing.” she said – with a bit of fire in her tone.
“Yep. And if she ever did… she never cooked it IN the bird.” he said with much less passion than she, leaving the room clearly not seeing the importance of the topic at hand.
The ‘he’ was my young, handsome husband.
The ‘she’ was his equally young, slightly emotional, trying to transition to new married life wife – or Me.
I can’t believe we never talked about this. In all of the important things you find out about your spouse to determine if they were the ONE… my husband and I had failed to discuss this most important issue…. The Thanksgiving Meal.
Tom and I were headed into our second thanksgiving together. The first one I had hosted – In our small 1 bedroom apartment. My parents came to visit and I made dinner exactly the way it should be. Turkey with a huge side of stuffing, corn bread please.
Cooked ……IN the bird.
(Don’t judge – I’ve eaten this ALL of my almost 50 years – and I’m alive to share. End of discussion. )
I cooked that first thanksgiving dinner the way my momma taught me. ( I actually never called my mom this but it seemed more appropriate for emphasis, said with a southern twang. Did I mention I grew up in Michigan?
The way my daddy’s momma taught her. ( Nope… didn’t call him daddy either). But my daddys momma – my grandma Hirsch – she was from Texas, her name was Katie Belle and she did indeed have a southern twang. Gosh I loved the way she called me punkin:)
The problem came the first year I didn’t host… and I found out that we weren’t eating stuffing.
I was disappointed and actually a bit offended. (seriously) I just could not understand why a family would not include this important side dish that held not only delicious taste memories in my mind but a lifetime of precious memories in my heart.
Corn bread stuffing. Filled with half a loaf of cornbread, wheat bread, hamburger… no raisins. Placed IN the body of the bird for perfect cooking. The juices from the turkey cook in to the stuffing for a moist, delicious treat . If you’ve had it once you’ll want it again. It didn’t take much convincing that my husband would adapt to my family tradition. We’ve raised our children on corn bread stuffing ( cooked IN the bird). Since they could sit up in a high chair I involved them in the bread tearing process. There isn’t a Thanksgiving to date that I don’t have a picture of them huddled around a bowl full of the delectable ingredients. They have each perfected their own tearing style – some big chunks – others tiny, meticulous pieces. I grew up tearing bread with my sister as my mom prepped the rest of the meal. It was the sign that we were all slowing down, to gather, to make tearing bread a top priority over anything else that could possibly pull our attention. Sometimes we’d have music playing, others it was just quiet conversation or no words at all. We just stood and tore bread anticipating the day that was to come.
We never lived near family so most of my holiday memories are quiet in nature . This is true for my own childhood as well as my years of raising children. Some years we would venture out to Downtown Detroit for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. One year of my childhood my dad and a neighbor dad hauled the kids to the inner city in wet, pelting snow to view the parade while the moms stayed home and cooked. It was horrible and wonderful all at the same time.
Tom took our older 2 children several years while baby Brooke and I watched on TV from home. One of the last years we lived in Michigan we attended the parade after worshiping at a beautiful, historic church called Trinity. It was crisp, beautiful and simple. Just the 5 of us. We had torn the bread in advance – so the bird was ready to cook when we returned home
When I think back to my reaction to someones decision to not make stuffing I have often felt surprised, kind of embarrassed about my immaturity. I was really mad and I was certain that Thanksgiving was just not going to be the same. I didn’t understand it, the level of emotion… until…
Stuffing to me is more then a carb filled side dish. It is a legacy. Its the picture of my grandmother Katie Belle Hirsch tearing bread with her boys Johnny and Norman in a small kitchen in Houston, TX. It is this same woman sharing the recipe with her new daughter in law and receiving the gift when that daughter in law took it and incorporated it into her new family tradition. It is my sister and I standing on chairs and and stools in small kitchens in Brighton MI, and my own children on their own chairs … side by side tearing the bread, me slicing celery and onions..melting boullion cubes in hot water. One generation passing on to another passing on to another passing on to another…. not just ingredients but values….
Enjoying the process not just the end result.
Our Good God.
So when the announcement came that their would be no stuffing… I grieved. Funny but I did. Actually not so funny….so true. The traditions we make with those we love are powerful, binding and important. The passing on of the corn bread dressing recipe was intentional – at least for me. It was a link that is now 3 generations deep that I wanted to keep going.
As we walk into another Thanksgiving celebration, the bread tearing will look a little different.
Additions: Our home will be full of 6 young adults under 25. I’m so eager to watch 2 of my children pass on the stuffing tradition to 3 Norweigan students celebrating their first Thanksgiving in America and to the girlfriend of my son.
Subtractions: My parents will celebrate at their home in Texas. After a year of much travel they are feeling weary and needing rest. This makes my heart a bit heavy as I watch them move into a slower pace…. I sure do hope my mom has the energy to tear some bread.
Multiplication: My oldest will be with in laws for her first Thanksgiving as a wife. I am so grateful for the new family she is making and the beautiful souls that have impacted her husband. We have not lost a daughter but gained a son and a new crew of incredible people.
Division: Why the bread of course. This will remain the same. I’ll bake a batch of corn bread, pull out the loaf of wheat bread. And it will be torn… and the tradition will live on.
I pray as you head into your week… you hold tight to all that is truly important. That pinterest perfection doesn’t steal your joy. That overindulging on the posts of others wont steal you of the peace right in front of you. That over commitment doesn’t steal the satisfaction that comes from saying ‘ No Thank you.’ That you make time to tear the bread, or play the game, or take the walk, or go to the parade, or worship our Savior – the giver of all things good.
Now….the pie, doesn’t matter to me. I’ll pick that up from Costco for 5.99.