Giving Thanks

The Hopeful Cook

By: Kristina Heaton

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. For me, it’s not a celebration of the Pilgrims having a dinner with the Native Americans (don’t get me started on that topic). It’s a time for me to really reflect on all that I have to be thankful for. It’s a time for family and thinking about the blessings they bring. It’s a time of choosing to put differences aside and to celebrate what keeps us together. I am thankful every day for the incredible people I get to do my every day life with. It’s pretty spectacular. It’s been a year of a whole lot of adventure and roller coasters of emotion and I couldn’t have done any of it without my crazy family. Thanksgiving gives me the opportunity to love of them a little extra and it’s easy to do with loads of comfort food!

We’re pretty traditional when it comes to the plethora of dishes that decorate our countertops at Thanksgiving. Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, etc. etc.The smell of the turkey baking through the house? Doesn’t get much better than that. I love that the day is set aside for me to cook. I don’t worry about anything else the whole day. I love when my daughter and future daughters-in-law are in the kitchen with me, learning the recipes that my grandma perfected. For the most part, I don’t deviate much from the family recipes for the day. I have so many sources of inspiration this year, though, so I think I’ll try some new things too.

We still have over a month until the Big Day, but I’ve already started to think about it.

A few weeks ago, my son gave me a “heads up” that he probably wouldn’t be able to come home for Thanksgiving this year. He goes to school in Chicago and has a job that he can’t take a lot of time away from. He really likes the holiday season as a whole, so he was pretty disappointed that it was turning out this way. But, we all grow up and juggling holidays is not easy. The last thing I’m going to do is make him feel guilty about not being able to be home for a holiday, even if my inner monologue is saying “No! You’re my baby. You must be here! It’s a family holiday!”

Being away from him isn’t easy. He’s my first child and we grew up together. I made all of my first mistakes with him. But I love him fiercely. I miss him every day. I absolutely adore being his mom. When I moved him in at college that first year, I stood in the parking lot of his dorm and sobbed for a half hour after I watched him walk away. This is normal, I know. The “see you laters” are a little easier, three years later, but only marginally. So, the little hole that formed when he told me he wasn’t coming home for the holiday was actually not a little hole. I will look around the room on that day, and even in the sea of people that will be there, I will notice his absence.

Let’s get back to cooking though! He had the opportunity to come home for a really quick visit this past weekend and his fiancée had the perfect idea. Let’s surprise him with an early Thanksgiving dinner. We had the full meal, turkey and all the fixings, and he was delighted. He didn’t even question my vague answers when he asked why I was making a turkey on a random Monday afternoon. It’s nice to know that I can say just about anything and he’ll go along with it ;-). It was a fun surprise and it helped me get in to the spirit of the season.

Do you have special memories of Thanksgiving? Traditions that you want to begin this year? Holidays are what we make of them, and I hope this is your best yet! What are you looking forward to the most?