Three years ago on November 24, we celebrated Thanksgiving. It was unlike any Thanksgiving we had ever experienced. Before, Thanksgivings were times of laughter and baking and football. This Thanksgiving was sad and drained and rushed and hectic.
My Nanny was the queen of Thanksgiving. She made almost everything in her little kitchen for the day. She stayed up all week it seemed getting ready for her meal, her pride and joy. She was in charge of the turkey and nearly all of the side dishes. And boy did she take charge! Her meals were huge and plentiful and absolutely delicious. She could cook like no other. This woman was made for Thanksgiving. Maybe it was that she grew up in a time where nothing was huge and plentiful. Maybe it was the countless hours watching Food Network. Maybe it was just something she was good at, something in her blood, but this woman knew how to cook. She also knew how to cook for a whole bunch of people. Our family isn’t big, but her meal reached beyond our dinner table feeding those in the church, the extended family, the neighborhood, and in the homeless shelters. My guess is that we didn’t even see half of the food she cooked leading up to Thanksgiving. I’m almost convinced she stored secret turkeys that she cooked for other families who couldn’t afford to have a meal. That was Nanny. Even when she was sick or tired, she still put others before herself and cooked for the hungry. My Nanny was one of a kind. If you need proof of how great she truly was, just read Sweet Arlene, my post all about my wonderful amazing grandmother.
Thanksgivings were a time that I got to spend in the kitchen with Nanny. She taught me exactly how to make Sweet Potato Pies and Chess Pies. I was given bigger jobs year after year until I was finally entrusted with the task of making my own. And that’s what I did three years ago on Thanksgiving. I made my own batch (and I mean batch… as in a dozen pies). But the reason I was making them wasn’t a happy one. The reason I was making them on this Thanksgiving is because my sweet Nanny was in the hospital and wasn’t able to be home for Thanksgiving.
I hadn’t been home the Thanksgiving before that. I was living in a different state. I wanted to be home and was miserable the entire day. My girls missed their one Thanksgiving they were meant to have with Nanny. They never got a chance to experience her Thanksgiving. I still feel very guilty that we weren’t there. Now Nanny was in the hospital and we were having Thanksgiving without her.
I talked with her several days before about Thanksgiving and my mom, who had surgery a few days before… talk about a crazy year, and about her getting out of the hospital for Thanksgiving. She was in for chemotherapy. Her cancer wasn’t bad, it was the chemo taking a toll on her that required a brief hospital stay. We were hopeful that this would be the end of the “c word” and everyone would be together on Thanksgiving and Christmas. She told me, “Lauren I just want to go home so bad. I just want to go home.” I assured her that she would be coming home soon. Little did I know, she didn’t mean her house.
That Thursday evening, my parents, aunt and uncle, and papa went to see Nanny in the hospital. My last conversation with her had been earlier in the day about green beans and pies. I could tell she didn’t feel good and kept the conversation brief. I was in her kitchen making her pies and her green beans and it wasn’t right. I told her I would see her when she got home and to feel better. I told her I loved her. That was it. That evening my family returned for a meal that tasted like tears. Nanny wasn’t breathing well. She had pneumonia. She was being transferred to ICU to be put on a ventilator so she could recover from the sickness faster. She would only be on the ventilator a day or two.
Two days later, two days after Thanksgiving, Nanny’s holiday, sweet Arlene went home.
Christmas sucked. Everything sucked. Nanny was gone and it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
The next Thanksgiving came and it tasted like tears too.
Last year tasted better. Nanny was there but it was her happiness that flavored the food and not the sadness of her absence.
We haven’t changed much. I still cook way too many pies. We buy a turkey from the church now (we had done this for a few years before her death too actually so it isn’t a huge deal). But all of the recipes and dishes are the same.
I still cry when I look at the recipes. But there is so much happiness. We have new faces at our tables. We have joy. We have peace. And we still have Nanny, in our food, in our conversation, in our laughter, and in our hearts. It is and will always be Nanny’s Holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving Nanny. We love you.