I had no intention of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I’m one of those dark, cranky wenches who despises the holidays. I wanted to get Chinese food. It’s not a manifesto against commercialism, or a religious thing. My family with the exception of my son are dead, or unbearable. I feel the loss of them most keenly during the holidays, and it can be excruciating. I’ve done many things in the past to avoid these feelings, such as poorly planned treks into the desert, trips to horse shows in ridiculous parts of the country, liaisons with unsavory types, and sometimes a lot of whiskey.
Two nights ago I dreamt of my Grandmother- the coolest woman I have ever known. In the dream she was cooking Thanksgiving dinner She was a great cook, but hated doing it-just like me. I don’t have many things that were hers; a ring, some photos, and my nose. However, I do have her ancient, cast iron cookware, which I saved from a dumpster when my mother got rid of her things. My Grandmother was married for 50 years. She cooked nearly every day with those medieval, insanely heavy pots, and confided in me she hated every minute of it. But, it was what was expected of her, and she knew she had a family to take care of. She often said it was “her lot.” If I had been born in that time – not that long ago really – I would have knocked myself in the head with one of those pots. She never had a job, an education, her own money or freedom. I don’t think she was unhappy really, just restless. My grandfather was a great guy, but she yearned for something of her own. A couple of days before she died, she told me of all the things she wished she had done and regretted missing, thus cementing my belief that It really is the things you don’t do that you regret. Then, in one of the saddest moments of my life she told me she didn’t care too much about dying but didn’t want to leave me. I sort of relived all this in the dream, and when I woke up, I felt like I would give anything, a kidney even, for just one more dinner with her.
So, this morning, I dragged her crappy 50 pound iron pots and pans out of the back of the cupboard and I cooked until I ran out of stuff to cook. I did it for her, and all the aunts and grandmothers and great-grandmothers before me, who slaved over feasts because it was their art form, their expression and tradition. So, I cooked today, in honor of my beautiful Grandmother, who always did the hard thing, because it was the right thing. I realized it was she who taught me to cook, just by letting me be with her. We women, for good or ill, are bonded together pieces of the women we watched as kids, and I was lucky to have had my eyes on her. Now I don’t have to cook for another year. Whew.