Thursday, November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving with my Grandmother Elsie
Thanksgiving to me will forever be associated with my grandmother Elsie. As children we would get into the car (and argue over who had to sit on the hump in the backseat of my mom's camero) or sometimes Steve's van (and argue over who got to sit next to the window on the bed in the back) and make the Loooooong drive from Huntington Beach (and later, Fountain Valley) to Vista, California. It was about an hour, but to an antsy 8 year old, it took forever to get there!
My grandparents lived in a mobile home community for seniors near San Diego. Their 2 bedroom home was on top of a hill surrounded by a lawn of white rocks (very low-maintenance). I remember walking in the front door, which lead you into the kitchen, to the right or straight ahead into the living room. The first thing you could always smell Turkey roasting in the oven. On the right, in the hallway that lead into the living room, sitting on top of the Avocado green washer and dryer, were the pies; Homemade Pumpkin and Pecan Pie. My grandmother, all of 4 feet, 41/2 inches, was always hustling around in the kitchen while my grandfather was sitting in his recliner in the living room watching TV. I have the idea that he was watching baseball (he was a huge baseball fan, having played semi-pro ball before he met my grandmother), but it wasn't the baseball season, so that couldn't be correct.
My grandmother would always do two things during our visit: Take a polaroid photo of us (we would fight over who got to take the photo every year, but she always wrote down who took the last one), and pull out her family photo albums. I sat with her year after year as she went through and told me stories about her brother, Bill, who was killed in Action in World War I (and who's grave we visited in France this summer), her brother Wilfred who married and stayed in Canada when her family emigrated from Toronto to Los Angeles in the 1920s. She showed me photos of her English relatives- her father Edward was born in Liverpool and her mother Emily was born in Melbourne, Australia. She corresponded with many of her English relatives until she died. There was an article in one of the photo albums about the daughter of my grandmother's cousin, who was able to wear a lace veil at her wedding in Scotland in 1943, because Elsie had sent lace from California.
Thanksgiving dinner a la Elsie Lee started with deviled eggs, and continued with Roasted Turkey stuffed with Bread Stuffing (and a separate dish of non stuffed stuffing), corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied yams, cranberry sauce and rolls with butter (regular and low sodium butter for my grandfather). For dessert there were the aforementioned pies, plus cherry jello, which she made for me because I didn't like the pies.
I was 17 years old when we celebrated my grandmother's last Thanksgiving and sadly I don't remember much about it. I have a vague recollection of us bringing most of the food and preparing it at my grandmothers house, as well as doing the cleanup. That was November 1989. She passed away unexpectedly on February 25, 1990.
I moved to Amsterdam when I was 23 and started celebrating Thanksgiving there a few year later, on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. I spend a few days making preparing and cooking, but I always enjoy it. I look at it as an hommage to my grandmother. I think about her, and her spirit and reflect on her influence on my life. I still miss her.