When I first thought about today’s blog post, I watched squirrels come to the water bowl on the deck. The water was frozen. It was time for putting things away. I carried the deck chairs and little table to the garage. I put away the temple bell and our iron crow we call Edgar Allen Crow, tipped the glass table that fits nowhere else on its side before it could be buried beneath snow.
The activity felt good. The air felt sharp inside my nose. Birds flitted in the stalks still standing in our garden. Back in the house, I remembered how cold I’d been the night before and threw another blanket on the bed.
November warns that winter is bearing down with bare-limbed trees, skies pregnant with snow, thin first layers of lake ice, geese V-ing across the sky, breath visible in front of our faces. This is November in Minnesota. The warmth of the kitchen offsets falling temperatures and my thoughts turn to cooking, looming holidays, family.
I remember one Thanksgiving when it was just me and my parents, when I was perhaps 12 or 13. Let’s go for a ride Cass, my dad said while Mom fretted over something (turkey? stuffing? cooking in general?) in the kitchen. Dad and I went up to Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul, where we stood in the cold looking out over the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul. The sky may have been that powdery blue specific to very late autumn or it may have been filled with November-ish gray. That wasn’t the important thing to remember. The important part was standing in the cold with my dad, our cheeks reddening, our breath dragon puffs, just us in a quiet Thanksgiving mood in an empty park where we could see forever. When we got back home, the turkey was stuffed and in the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful and Mom was done fretting. Dad probably made a brandy and seven, his holiday drink, and he would have made Mom a gin and tonic or maybe something with that lime-flavored vodka she had a phase with. And Mom would have gone into their bedroom, reached up on the highest closet shelf, and brought out a big box of chocolates from which we would each select just one or two before dinner.
Over the years, we might go to my brother’s or my oldest sister’s house for Thanksgiving, where there were plenty of kids and laughter. We might have my other sister home from Colorado, staying in my tiny bedroom with her husband while I shared sleeping space with my mom. As an adult, I’ve seldom traveled on Thanksgiving, save one trip to New York when my son Shawn was little and a few times to Wisconsin while my father-in-law was still alive. In fact, the last Thanksgiving he ever celebrated was one that my family all went down to spend with him. We’ve hosted for university students who had nowhere else to go that day. We’ve hosted for friends. And we’ve been with just ourselves. Holidays are changeable days; families grow and must accommodate in-laws and children and so much more.
No matter what we do this Thanksgiving, I will cook in some way. I will find time to be with people I love, perhaps not on the day itself but close. And I marvel at just how much this time of year is tied to Minnesota for me, this wintery place with such big seasonal shifts and its reminder that if we didn’t know how to prepare for the leanness of winter, we might know a little less about the value of what we have.
After I put the patio furniture away and wrote about Thanksgivings past, I remembered that my mom’s old recipe box was up in the cupboard above our stove, right beside my own old recipe box that I only pull out at this time of year. I have a fudge recipe that I’ve made every year since Shawn was six; he’s 41 now. My mom, too, had a fudge recipe she made every year, so I rifled through her old recipes to see if I could find it.
I did find it, along with a few other recipes she made every single year. I might make one or two of these this year – not the fudge, because I have my own tradition – but these others are kind of fun. I love seeing my mom’s handwriting, remember the incredibly heavy manual typewriter she sometimes used to type up recipe cards and how she always included who she got the recipe from. It always amuses me how many of these recipes she had given that she did not like to cook.
Here are those recipes. Have fun with them if you’re so inclined. They might need some tweaking. Happy Thanksgiving however you celebrate, in whatever place you call home.
recipe photo by kcmickelson
cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.com