Every year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, my husband and I settle in and watch White Christmas.
We know every line, joke, and song. My favorite scene is when Bing and Danny perform their unique version of “Sisters,” complete with feather fans.
A few days later, we bring my mother over to watch it with us. She’s been watching it with us every year since Daddy passed away. It was the first movie my mother ever saw in a theater; she and Daddy saw it for the first time when they were dating. So it became our tradition to watch it together every year.
This year that won’t happen. Mama left us in July. This year we’re watching it without her.
We’re doing a lot of things without her, but sometimes, that’s the way it has to be.
Those were her words to me a few days before we entered hospice. “Sometimes that’s the way it has to be, Melinda.” I thought she was talking about not wanting to eat the hospital food. She was talking about something more permanent.
This time of year, my mind travels to the holidays and cooking with Mama.
I tried for years to duplicate my mama’s recipes for dressing, cornbread, and the best macaroni and cheese you’ll ever put into your mouth. Mama showed me how to do it many times over the years. I watched and even wrote the recipes down.
Problem was, Mama did all of her cooking the old-fashioned way. “Just add enough evaporated milk so the macaroni is soupy, but not too much. You might want to add a handful of cheese right before it’s done.” Or “Let the dressing sit in the refrigerator overnight before you add the eggs. Taste it in the morning. If it doesn’t taste right, add salt and pepper or maybe more sage.”
“But Mama, how do I know if it tastes right?”
Deadpan expression. “It’ll taste like dressing.”
Well of course it will.
She didn’t measure anything. She just knew. And it was always perfect.
I tried, believe me. But the cornbread crumbled or the dressing burned, or the macaroni was dry. Every time.
This year at Thanksgiving though, I got it right. I guess Mama knew she wouldn’t be there to haul me out of the mess, so she guided my hand. I knew just how much sage and how much cheese. It was like she was doing the measuring. The dressing was moist and tasty, and a little crunchy on top. The macaroni was gooey and rich. Mama was looking over my shoulder.
It’s hard doing things without her, but she would have been proud. She would have taken a bite of the dressing and let her eyes go wide. “Melinda,” she would have said. “This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted.” I know she would have said that because she always said it about everything I cooked. It was Mama’s way of encouraging me.
This time, though, I might have believed it.
Thanks Mama, I miss you.