I miss my Grandma the most around Thanksgiving.
I miss the way she used to greet me at the door with a beater full of her famous mashed potatoes for me to “taste test” and how I could always expect another beater-full as soon as she added whatever ingredient I thought she was missing.
I miss how she glided through her little kitchen, playing her favorite Barry Manilow cassette tape (she never had a CD player in her house) at full blast as she prepared our feast. She was always the most at home in the kitchen and there was nothing she loved more than cooking for her family. She never let me help, except to be her “taste tester”, so I would sit at the kitchen table and talk to her while she cooked. We had some of the best conversations at that kitchen table, over beaters filled with mashed potatoes and Barry Manilow.
I miss the look on her face when she took the turkey out of the oven: she would smile and say “that’s a good looking bird, if I do say so myself!” and I jokingly would say “you know we only care about the mashed potatoes, right Grandma?” Without missing a beat she would say “fine! More leftovers for me!” as she proudly displayed the bird on her nicest serving dish.
I miss how she only used the fine china and nice silver at Thanksgiving. As a little girl I always got a champagne glass filled with milk and never felt more grown up.
My first Thanksgiving away from home, I called her, begging for her famous mashed potato recipe; something that would make me feel less far away from home during one of my favorite holidays to spend with her. I heard Barry Manilow in the background as she listed out the ingredients and told me I had to buy “unsalted margarine” or the potatoes wouldn’t taste the same. Before we got off the phone, I read my list back to her and, with her blessing, was sent to the grocery store to give it a try.
Later that day, I called again:
“Grandma, you never told me the measurements. How do I know what I’m doing?”
“Just keep adding the ingredients until they taste like mine,” she said, “and make sure you have a beater-full so you know what you’re missing.”
I can still hear her voice, just like it was yesterday.
I stood over my stove that day, mashing, adding, and stirring until I finally perfected her masterpiece. I called her, gushing over my accomplishment, and she proudly yelled “that’s my girl!” into the phone. She was always proud of me, but I could tell on this day she was actually beaming with pride.
To this day, I have never written down my version of her recipe, never kept her ingredients stashed away in a recipe book, but every year I still make her mashed potatoes, and every year I just keep adding her ingredients from memory until her mashed potatoes taste just right.
This year, I’m thankful for the ability to adjust. I’m grateful for the way life gives me the ingredients I need, but lets me perfect the recipe until its right for me. I’m thankful for the ability to try again if I don’t get it right the first time. I’m learning to make life my own definition of perfect and to take what I’ve been given and turn it into something beautiful.
And I’m thankful that my Grandma is up there watching over me as I make her mashed potatoes this year….listening to her Barry Manilow cassette tape and letting me know everything is going to be alright.