I spent this past Thanksgiving eve the way I've spent most of them: enjoying mother-daughter bonding while chopping onions and celery, browning sausage, and mixing it all with croutons to make stuffing for our Thanksgiving dinner.
Our stuffing recipe calls for some important ingredients that don't go into the bowl: raucous laughter, teasing, music, and sneak-tastes of our work in progress. What could be a high pressure quest for a perfect holiday dish is instead a happy mix of silliness and tradition.
Once upon a time, before I was a wife or mother, I was a daughter, serving as my mother's right-hand girl in the kitchen at stuffing-making time. At first I was assigned innocuous tasks like shaking in the ground sage until Mom said stop, or stirring the ingredients together with a big wooden spoon. Before long I graduated to fryer of sausage and sauteer of celery, heady stuff for a little girl longing to be a grown-up.
So many significant last times in life go by unnoticed. I can't remember the last time I helped my mom make stuffing. I was probably in college, or maybe I was married and visiting with my own family. If we'd known it was the last time, Mom and I - both shamelessly sentimental - probably would have cried.
As my own children grow up and establish their adult lives, I understand that each holiday we celebrate under the same roof may be the last. Melissa is my last child at home; next year she's off to college. I hope she'll be in the kitchen with me next Thanksgiving eve, but I know I can't count on it.
I could allow myself to steep in a warm, gooey bath of "poor me," imagining a future of solo holidays punctuated by long distance phone greetings from my far-away daughters and son. Just me and the turkey. Just me and the Christmas tree. Me and one lonely Easter basket. Just me, shoveling in chocolates and weeping through "A Charlie Brown Valentine."
Nope, can't do it. It's just too ridiculous, even for someone who's done her share of self-indulgent steeping. I don't want to be one of those grasping, passive-aggressive parents, whining, "Don't mind me, you go live your life. Just forget about me here all alo-o-o-one."
In the first place, I'll probably never be all alo-o-o-one. I have extended family here in Marquette to share the holidays with, not to mention a posse of big-hearted friends. There's no excuse for self-pity - unless you choose it - when you're surrounded by people who love you.
In the second place, it's called real life. Kids grow up and move on. That's the point of parenting, isn't it, to raise self-sufficient young adults who are ready and eager to fly the nest? I'm happy that my kids haven't flown far, but I know they might someday.
For now, though, the stuffing was delicious, Thanksgiving was fun, and Christmas is coming. I could get all moist-eyed and lumpy-throated pondering future holidays without my kids nearby, but frankly, I'd rather watch "A Christmas Story" and tease my son about his insatiable appetite for candy canes. Enjoying the moment you're living is a lot more fun than mourning the moment's passing.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot. com.