Bringing It To the Table

As the smell of cinnamon and apples fill my home tonight from a dessert being prepared for the holiday to come, I am reminded of her. Even with the invention of the newest fan-dangled mixer with all the attachments, I still use hers to whip together a recipe that she would have hand picked herself.

When I feel the blades whirl beneath my grip on the handle, I think of her. She has been gone for awhile now. I use the word ‘gone’ loosely because she is more near to me than ever before. We don’t have the miles from Minnesota to North Dakota separating us anymore. She is closer to me than when she was on earth.

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There are times when I feel her standing near me. Watching. Encouraging me to do the best I can. She and I are kindred spirits of the written word. I may not be able to see her with my natural eye, but I can feel her presence surrounding me more than ever when I am at my computer writing.  She loved to write short stories and was quick to pen a poem.

I was always greeted when we arrived at her house with a long hug as if we could make up the lost time just in that moment.  From the minute I walked into her home, I was expected to eat from morning until night. This is how she really showed her affection.

It wasn’t unusual for her to look me square in the eye and say,

“You look hungry.”

People would probably call it a food addiction of sorts these days, but my Grandma Hazel loved to watch someone eat and enjoy the labor of her work in the kitchen. It was her Norwegian descent in full manifestation. No one would ever grace her home without leaving with his or her stomach distended.

Often, when the meals were done and the dishes had all been put away, she and I would spend hours at the dining room table playing cards. When I get too serious about life, I recall the many games of Hand and Foot, Crazy 8’s and Kings in the Corner she and I played. How she made me laugh with her dramatic sighs and feigned sadness if I was winning. If I would play a card that went against her hand, she would always say, “Why are you being so dirty to me?” with a shocked look and high pitched voice. It just made me want to win all the more.

Of course, no match could ever take place without a snack to eat as we battled it out with our Kings and Queens. There was always Brachs candy, homemade caramel corn or some other sweet confection. As we went along in strategy, she asked me questions about my life, and I told her my deepest fears and my biggest worries. I always knew it was safe to tell her what I felt without concern of the news getting back to my parents. She was an ally who truly wanted to know what was going on with me and would take the time to listen.

She would tell me about her childhood and her step-mother who was mean. How her house burned down when she was nine and the woolen dress she despised was the only article of clothing hanging outside on the line that survived. That she only was allowed to complete the eighth grade because she was needed at home to care for all the young children being born. And despite all of her hardships, she had managed to make the most of what she had. At the end of every story she told, she made sure I was aware that without God helping her through, she would not have made it. She emphasized the power of prayer.

Some grandparents leave a fortune to their heirs. Some leave no notoriety. She gifted me with the idea that nothing in life is too hard or complicated to get over as long as heaven is on your side. I am grateful to have known her so I can pass along her wisdom to my daughters not only with oven mitts on but in those times when life is turbulent.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving, and the mixer does its job, Grandma Hazel is still bringing it to the table.

 

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Turkey for Two

The Sunday paper was lying in a heap on the kitchen table. As usual, it was Monday, and I was finally getting around to reading a few of the ads. Most of the inserts spoke of doorbuster sales, but I wasn’t thinking of finding Christmas gifts early.  Instead, I needed two turkeys for Thanksgiving. As I paged through the various catalogs of information, I wondered what had happened to this holiday? It seemed like we no sooner had Halloween and all its uproar with candy scarfing then we hurtled full speed ahead to boughs of holly and mad dashes to find the perfect gift. What had happened to the cranberries, the stuffing, the giving thanks and a day of digesting one of the best meals of the year?

I located the grocery store ad in hopes of finding a buy one get one on frozen turkeys. In years past, this had been offered, but it became apparent that our economy had taken a hit as I could not find a deal on any turkey. I thought maybe the week before Thanksgiving this would surely be an offering.  No such luck.

The reason for buying two birds was not so I could eat them both, but my intention was to give one to a good friend of mine who had just gone through a divorce just like I had. He was going to be cooking a meal for his kids for the first time as a single man. I guess I was trying to take away some of the stress by helping him along in the kitchen by giving him the main dish to which he could easily add in the sides. I was not at the height of having an abundance of money, but I knew I was to help him out this way.

I put the paper aside, and I made the decision that I would go out and buy each of us a turkey the next day. In the meantime, I had to take my youngest daughter to her dance class. While driving, I mulled over the predicament. I knew exactly to the penny what I had in my checking account and back in those days, a savings account didn’t exist. I was never one for using a credit card to buy my food, so I knew I was going to have to just fight off the fear of lack and do it anyway.

After I dropped her off at her class, I sat in my car and said a quick prayer asking for help in apprehending two turkeys for our meals. It wasn’t anything fancy. Just a quick shout out to heaven with a simple thank you. Then, I put it out of my mind and got out a book to read while I waited.

When I got home, I saw the ad laying on the table where I had left it.  I felt a slight twinge of disappointment because I really wanted to give him a turkey, but I didn’t know how I was going to afford two of them plus all the rest of my meal.  I walked out to the mailbox, and as I shuffled through the usual bills, a bright red postcard surfaced.  Written in fancy font it read:

Your name has been submitted to receive a free Thanksgiving basket.  Please come to the address listed below on Wednesday to pick up your items. Thank you.  

I could not believe it!  Just moments ago I was worrying over how I was going to give away a turkey that I didn’t have to pay for and now I was going to be able to give away an entire meal!   Not even for a moment did I consider keeping this gift for myself.  I wanted to give it away to a person who was going through a hard time of adjusting to a new way of living.  I was so overjoyed that I barely heard the phone ringing when I came back into the house.

“Hello?” I said.

“Is this Christine?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Christine, I am calling because someone gave us your name to receive a Thanksgiving basket.  I am calling to see if you would like one. Our church gave away baskets over the weekend, and we are now trying to find homes for the ones that are leftover.  We sure would appreciate it if you would take one.”

“I just got a postcard in the mail that I am to pick up a basket this Wednesday.  Is this from your church?”

“No.  We didn’t send out postcards.  And, our delivery happened over the weekend.  So, what we have are baskets that didn’t find homes in need of them.  Would you like one?”

It was one of those moments when my mouth hung open on its own accord, and I lost my ability to speak for a few seconds.

“Sure.  I would love one,” I said.

“If you could come and pick this up before Wednesday, that would work out great.”

I assured her that I would.

On Wednesday, I stood in my kitchen with two overflowing baskets both containing two large turkeys, stuffing mix, cranberries, canned vegetables, fresh potatoes and all the staples every well stocked pantry could afford such as flour, sugar, butter and even a gallon of milk!

As we approach this time of the year once again, I am reminded of how I had no need to worry about any of the details.  I had asked for help, and the divine had come to my rescue.  Even before I had prayed, heaven had made a way for turkey for two.

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