This year, as I plan our menu, my mind turns to those who passed this last year. As some of you know, this has been a very hard year for our family because we lost many loved ones.
At Aunt Dora’s funeral in April, a friend said that soon after his mother died, he continued to pick up the phone to try to call her. It was both a habit and a wish. Another friend who lost her longtime partner was only part joking when she that she wished she could just Google to find out where he is now.
I have the same instinct to want answers and continued intimacy.
I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my aunt since I moved out of New Jersey in 2008. My parents have travelled to spend the holiday with my husband and I first in Michigan and now Washington, D.C. While I spoke with Aunt Dora almost every day around noon, on Thanksgiving the call would be earlier and last longer. She’d ask to speak with everyone and then check on the menu. She’d ask not only what I was making, but how I was making it. And she’d joke that I should save her a turkey wing, her favorite part of a bird she otherwise disliked.
Aunt Dora was always my go-to person when I had kitchen disasters. Even when I called from Italy, she walked me through hamburger patties that were falling apart and ruined caramel sauces that wouldn’t unstick from my pot. She was a confident and generous home cook. While she would sometimes laugh at my questions (there were, after all, some funny problems), she would always (eventually) answer me seriously.
I wish I could call her to wish her a happy holiday. She’d end the conversation by asking, as she always did, “When am I going to see you again, kid?”
While there is no longer an answer to that question, there is a menu and turkey to attend to. She would expect me to. And the things I do, starting with cooking, keep her memories awake in my actions and thoughts. It is far from being the same as it was, but it is what we have.