Thanksgiving Still A One-Woman Show For Mom


Mark and I just got back from Wisconsin, where my mother served her 65th Thanksgiving meal. She’ll be 87 next week, so you’d think she’d be over it… but no.

“Margie,” Mark said. “Please let me do it this year. It’s too much work for you.”

“And I can cut up carrot sticks,” I chimed in (always the consummate cook).

“No, no, no,” she argued. “I know where the pans are.”

This is her best argument. She used it on my brother Dave last month when he insisted on hosting the day at his nearby home in Cedarburg, a town so historically picturesque and holiday perfect that it was the cover story for Country Living magazine one December.

“You don’t have the right pans,” she said. End of argument.

So, because she has the right kitchenware and knows where it is, she was up at 6 a.m. in her “office,” the one with the stove. My sister Pam had flown in from L.A. the night before, heard her rattling around in there and got up to help. When she entered the kitchen, mom was hoisting a 15-pound meat grinder onto the table. I know, because Pam texted me at the hotel.

“A meat grinder?” I texted back. “For what?”

“Daddy’s special stuffing, the one with the sausage.”

“I didn’t know anyone used those anymore,” I wrote.

“It is so old school,” Pam replied. “Looks like something out of Fiddler on the Roof.”

By the time we got over there, we were too late to do much of anything. The turkey was stuffed and in the oven, the vegetables were cut up and waiting to be popped into the steamer, and she was mashing the potatoes.

“Let me do that,” Mark said, taking the pot from her.

“I brought a pie,” I offered weakly, holding up a rather sad-looking creation that required me to dump canned pumpkin into a thawed pie shell and take it out of the oven when I heard the “ding.” That’s talent right there.

Promptly at noon, Dave arrived, and we sat down at the table. Here I must interject that the table looked beautiful because we all have our talents, and mine is preparing a table pretty enough to be worthy of mom’s food. I had plundered her china cabinet for crystal, tablecloths and candlestands, gussied them up with tassels and silk leaves, and put a little foil-wrapped chocolate turkey at each place. She had a couple of ceramic turkey decorations, and those got pride of place once I set them atop a pile of crystal bowls and plates that I had stacked up. (She loves it when I stack her crystal; I heard her sighing.)

By the time we said grace and dug in, we were almost dizzy from the smell alone. There is just something about the combined scents of turkey, stuffing, veggies, pies and the sweat of mom’s brow that screams “Home!” Next year, however, there will be no perspiration from mom. Pam, Dave, Mark and I staged an intervention right after dinner. We told her that this was the last time she would do this alone. We divvied up the duties right then and there.

When we were finished, mom nodded. She nodded just like any non-remorseful and lying target of an intervention.

So we’ll see what happens next year — but I know that she has already hidden the meat grinder.