As I write this, Thanksgiving is not quite here and will be a day over when this is published. The first thing that came to mind this morning was of previous Thanksgiving dinners. Maybe I’m not unusual, but I prefer Thanksgiving dinner leftovers to the original feast. I have one exception and that’s the turkey heart. When I was really little, I had competition from my sibling as to who would get to claim it. When it came to negotiating such challenges, I was pretty smart. They who help in the kitchen often get first options on the offerings. I quickly learned that observing my mother in the kitchen, while carefully staying out of her way, made me first in line for the turkey heart! She would always cook the heart, liver, gizzard, and neck in the surroundings of the turkey in the roaster. As the turkey roasted, they would pick up the flavorings of the herbs and spices she used. After lifting out the now deliciously roasted turkey, she’d scoop out the parts from the bottom of the pan. “Would you like the turkey heart?” mom would ask as she stirred the gravy. Well, um, yea, is that a serious question? Maybe she thought that year would be the one I have a momentary lapse in judgment and say “no”.
Mom made raisin yeast rolls every year, along with a couple of bread loaves for later. Color me silly. I’d pick out the raisins from my roll and eat them, then use the roll to mop up the gravy left on my plate. I will never forget that flavor. I would already be thinking ahead to the next day’s lunch of open-faced turkey sandwiches. Mom would layer turkey on freshly sliced raisin bread. Over the turkey, she’d pour gravy to which she had added peas during the reheating process. Oh, my! There are no words to describe how good, forkful after forkful, every bite tasted. Mom made amazing, herb-infused gravy. The combination of her gravy with the sweetness of her raisin bread was unbeatable. If you think I’m exaggerating, just ask my daughter, Jordan. The Thanksgiving before my mother passed away, as mom was making dinner, she asked Jordan if there was any special food she would like. Jordan was 12 at the time and responded “Gramma, could you please, make a gallon of gravy?” Grandmothers can’t resist the requests of their grandchildren. A gallon it was that she served up. Plenty for dinner and later on open-faced turkey sandwiches and leftover smashed potatoes!
This morning, as I look back on those memories, I consider Thanksgiving leftovers aren’t just about food. As memories flood my mind, thinking of past dinners serves as a trail of leftover remembrances. I recall people with whom I have shared food and who have now passed on. I recall the Thanksgiving after my father died. It would have been just mom and I, but she invited fourteen people, who otherwise would have been alone. Dad had been gone two months. I understand this was good therapy for her as she worked through her own Thanksgiving, memory leftovers. I remember that meal like no other previous Thanksgiving.
I have friends who post everyday on Facebook, something for which they are grateful. I have other friends who pick apart the shortcomings of the history of this holiday, as one may pick apart the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey, but not nearly which as much appreciation.
As I put these conflicting ideas together, I can only wonder why our emphasis on gratitude and sharing isn’t leftover to be savored each day from one year to the next. Former lessons in school and community on the history of this holiday put emphasis on Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing food at a gathering which would become the icon for the First Thanksgiving. Recently, emphasis has been placed on how we have been taught wrongly about what happened at the First Thanksgiving. All I can say is that for me, the holiday isn’t solely about Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing turkey and maize. It’s about expressing gratitude on the last Thursday of November and each day through to the next Thanksgiving, for leftover memories of previous meals shared with loved ones, friends and yes, if we’re fortunate, strangers waiting to be new friends. I am grateful for leftover memories as savory as my mother’s gravy and as sweet as her raisin bread.