I shopped today, getting ready for the big Thanksgiving feast that is only 5 days away. Apples for pie, squash, cranberries, cider and wine and brandy. Flour for bread, sweet potatoes for baking, chocolate to make my sister’s birthday cake. This weekend, this crowded weekend before the first holiday of the “Holiday Season”, is the only time of the year when I truly love the grocery store. I love the canned, tinny music, the limp wreaths that shed needles with the slightest touch, the boxes of amaryllis bulbs and the piles of nuts in their brown shells, spread out like an image from Dickens. I even love the premixed and precooked foods; the frozen pies and jars of gelatinous gravy. All of it seems festive, somehow; all of it speaks to the ghosts of holidays past. All of it seems to promise a true feast, filled with laughter and love and brilliant lights and the perfect gift in the perfect wrapping.
And as I steer my cart through the Saturday crowds, humming the strains of “We Gather Together” under my breath, I can easily imagine myself back at my parents’ house, waking up to the smell of the turkey that Mom would cook all night. I can remember my Nana and Grampa, and all of the thanksgivings of my childhood.
I make my way past the garish displays of holiday wrapped cookies and sodas, and into the “seasonal aisle”, filled with items that are unaccountably wrapped in silver or gold foil. Candies, sodas, fruitcakes and beef sticks, all of them artfully arranged in large cardboard displays. I look with a laugh at the “holiday oreos” and “Christmas m&m’s”. At sodas with elves on the label, and egg nog flavored non-dairy creamer. It all makes me smile.
I load my brimming bags into my trunk and head for home. On the way my mind ticks off the items bought and the items still needed. I look forward to the pleasure of a last minute dash through the bins at Idylwilde Farms on Wednesday, where I will overpay for beautiful fruits; pears, apples, grapes, dates and figs. I love the bounty of it all! I love the fact that I not only have the right to overdo it, but I almost have the obligation; to do this holiday justice, there should be too much of every delicious treat that I can conjure up.
And this is where my strangeness and my “Mammaness” lurk, behind the boxes of nuts and the bags of cranberries; I love to think of myself as one in a huge line of millions of women who have been asked to create the feast that lures the family to the table. I see us all, in a timeless dance stretching back through the ages, harvesting, buying, chopping, stirring, serving, our aprons tied tightly and dusted with flour, our faces flushed with steam and effort, our houses filled with heavenly smells. I am one with every woman who ever gathered the eggs, killed the chicken, cut the biscuits. We are a sisterhood of providers, a clan of nurturing. We have a vital role, and I am very good at it.
And that is why, on this one weekend, the frozen squash and canned cranberries and premade dinner rolls do not repel me or make me grimace in disgust. This one weekend those foods represent the opportunity for other women to join the clan. They represent a chance for all of us gather our families around our tables, where overdoing is doing enough.