Thursday, November 22, 2007

not too late

She was sleeping when I began slicing onions and celery and a Granny Smith apple; when I crumbled one tube of maple-flavored sausage into my heavy black skillet, and stirred, and watched the heat rising in savory wisps.

She didn't see the coming together of a fresh batch of homemade poultry seasoning--all those spice containers gathered in a huddle around my mortar and pestle, and the careful measurements of half-, and quarter-, and eighths of a teaspoonful of rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, pepper, and nutmeg. She didn't get to see the turn of the pestle as it crushed those herbs into one pungent, indistinguishable spice.

She missed all the rest of the stuffing-making steps, too--the chicken broth poured slowly over that mound of seasoned bread crumbs, the three cubes of melted butter spilled in golden dribbles over the mixture, the last dash of salt, and the final twist of freshly ground peppercorn.

But she is there when I stuff the turkey, and oil him up, and lift him to the pan. And I'm glad. For at the last second, I need her extra pair of hands to widen the opening of the cooking bag.

Bag closed and bird in the oven, she asks, "What do you need me to do next?"

I love having a daughter. As weeks become months and months disappear into years, she is slowly becoming my second self. On days like today, I can give her a general suggestion and she knows how to carry it straight on to finish.

"We need to set the tables," I say. And without asking any further instructions, Tera wipes first one, and then the other table, covers them both with tablecloths, and begins to carefully set out the china from its rest-of-the-year hiding place.

While folding whipped cream into a big bowl of marshmallow-flecked fruit salad, I watch from the kitchen as she arranges the candles on each table. She moves the tall, glass-enclosed pillar an inch to the right, then two inches to the left. After a few long seconds of thought, she brings a votive to join the pillar. As a final touch, she sets a tiny pilgrim man in front of one arrangement, and a tiny pilgrim woman in front of the other.

"Will you put on some music?" I ask. She sorts through the CDs piled near the player and selects one. I'm glad when I hear Fernando Ortega's voice.

I cut an inch from a head of garlic, nestle the tangerine-sized orb on a square of foil, and drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves. Tera watches me twist the edges of the foil upwards and curl the tip, and set the packet in the oven for roasting.

"Did your Grandma teach you how to do all this?" she asks.

I think of all the recipes my grandmother passed on to me--Poor Soup, breaded tomatoes, red beans ... the list goes on, each memory more homey, more bacon-grease enhanced than the last. Kalamata Aioli isn't on the list. That one I figured out for myself. The stuffing recipe is my own concoction, too.

"No," I say. "But Grandma taught me to love the kitchen."

Tera leans against the counter, resting her pretty face in her hands. "When I get married, I'm going to have you come over and make our Thanksgiving dinner."

I look at her, and just as I do, Fernando Ortega's voice rises from the living room.

Out of time
We're running out of time

How old was I? I try to remember the first time Grandma handed me the spoon and began to transfer her love of cooking. Was I Tera's age? Younger?

"No, you won't do that," I say. "Because you're going to do the cooking yourself."

Tera laughs. "No way. It's too much."

"No, it's not. You're going to be a great cook."

Out of time
We're running out of time

I glance at the counter. What's left to make? Green bean casserole.

"Wash your hands," I tell her. "You're about to make your first Thanksgiving dish."

Her eyes widen. "What am I making?"

"Green bean casserole."

She draws in her breath. "No! Not today. I'll make it some other time. Not on Thanksgiving."

But I'm looking at that hourglass. "Some other time" won't happen. And next year, she might not want to stand here in the kitchen with me. If I wait, I might miss my chance.

"Today," I tell her. "You're making it today, and it will be wonderful, and everyone will love it."

She did ... and it was ... and everyone loved it.

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8 Comment:

At 11/23/2007 4:17 PM, Blogger Cora had this to say ...

Oh, Shannon. I am your biggest fan. I love reading your blogs. They always bring me to tears.

What a wonderful picture of Thanksgiving. How awesome that you have your love of cooking to pass down to Tera. I can't wait until we are invited to one of Tera's official dinners when she gets older.

By the way, sounds like you had a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner!!

At 11/23/2007 6:51 PM, Blogger Ginger had this to say ...

Whew! That thing of pushing Baby Bird out of the nest and watching her fly--always scary for both Mama Bird & Baby Bird.

Sounds like you had a wonderful, warm and joyous Thanksgiving. Lovely!

At 11/24/2007 3:14 AM, Blogger katie had this to say ...

Ha...this blog reminded me of our conversation on thanksgiving last Wednesday.
My mom eventually made the green bean casserole herself. Which i am happy about because it was delicious (as usual).
I, my lazy self, slept or showered while Sarah and my mom did everything. Sarah made the yams, don't tell her i said this, but they were good. Although, i do feel kinda guilty...or more upset that i didn't help. I just hope that even though we're running out of time, I can still learn the skill of cooking a Thanksgiving feast from my mom. Thanks for putting it into better perspective!

At 11/24/2007 7:16 AM, Blogger Tammy had this to say ...

Sweet! I had my babygirl help this year and she did great. Although, I think her favorite role was taste testing the batters. :)

At 11/26/2007 6:23 PM, Blogger Ornery's Wife had this to say ...

And the song was so right in reminding you--we are running out of time. My daughter (27) opted to go eat at her grandmother's this year, instead of here with her dad and me. We have "gone healthy" on her and she wanted traditional--but didn't want to do any of the work. It's good you had Tera helping and good that you spent time teaching her your love of cooking. It's a great gift.

At 11/28/2007 7:15 AM, Blogger Shannon had this to say ...

Thanks, Cora-belle. :) And who knows? Maybe all four of us will be invited to that Thanksgiving ... for reasons we have previously schemed. :)

Hi Ginger! Yes, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. Two Navy boys who attend our church came, and one of my son's friends from Yucca is staying with us this month, so it was a happy, noisy bunch. Hope you're doing well! Will you be at the SPU conference in May? I'm teaching two classes. It would be great to see you there.

Hi Katie! There's still time--get in the kitchen! :) You'll never be sorry you learned. I've never yet met anyone who said, "I so wish I hadn't bothered to learn my way around the kitchen." :) Let me know how it goes.

Hello Tammy--yes, the batter-licking is a perennial favorite. Tera still likes that, too. Thanks for the visit!

Hi TM! Gone healthy, have you? Great choice, although I'm sad that it sent your daughter to Grandma's. I'll bet she'll come around. Give her another ten years, when everything starts changing and her body turns on her. She'll be asking you all sorts of "How do I go healthy" questions.

I hope you had a great day, nonetheless!

At 12/12/2007 8:58 AM, Blogger suzzanne had this to say ...

Shannon, I am a little behind on my reading, but I think I read this one at the perfect time. I have such a fondness for your little girl who is turning into a beautiful young lady. She was such a delight last night at youth group, and I loved having her over afterward. I pictured this in my head as I read it, and heard her voice. Thank you for sharing some of your most intimate moments with us. I love you!

At 12/18/2007 8:01 AM, Blogger Stephen had this to say ...

Haven't been over in a while, just getting caught up on my blog reads.

I love this story, and glad the casserole turned out all right! I haven't had any this season so far; hope that's in our Christmas future. :)


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