The sweet potato casserole, string bean casserole, apple pie, pumpkin pie, and orange cranberry jelly are all done. There’s lots more to do… However, the fridge has been cleaned out and set for the preparation of the rest of the meal, and yet organized enough to allow for the storing of the yummy leftovers that will feed us and sustain our hearts for the next few days. I have now shopped three times (yes, I’ve made another trip since my last blog; fingers crossed that three times is the charm) (yes, I remembered the rolls–thank you) the linens and platters have been pulled out, and the dishwasher has now been run twice. Dinner is in the oven and also in the crockpot. I am off to work, and the empty nest will begin to fill tonight while I am out and will continue to do so, well into the wee hours. In the morning it will be very quiet while everyone who has returned home remains asleep, or, at least, pretends to be, while the hubby and I head to work. I’ll be back to tackle the now empty, but not a chance tomorrow, sink, regroup, and head out to my second job. The craziness has only yet to begin… This year, I’m not quite ready, but I welcome it. The house will not be nearly as full, but the preparation is no different, the aromas that waif through the air are the same, and the smoke detector will go off, and the yelling will begin, as if it’s been scheduled.
I will miss having my folks here, and my brother and sister in law; my husband’s parents have not come for many years, and as my family has married and moved, other traditions have taken over, so I hold very tight to those who do come. However, this year I have been thinking a lot about two people who have been gone now, for several years…
My brother in law, is an only child, born to parents who had him later on in life, long before my career driven generation evolved. His dad, a long time Cantor of a large temple, and his mom, everything you would imagine of a loving, adoring wife and mom, who walked everywhere along king’s Highway Brooklyn, to shop, launder, and care for her family, as they, naturally, didn’t drive. I didn’t meet these people until they were in their late 70s, and they were my grandparents contemporaries, rather than my parents’. Nonetheless, we welcomed them into the fold with open arms, when he and my sister became engaged, and then married, four years after I did. They often turned me down when invited over…”it’s such a schlep”, “it’s not necessary”, “we’re just fine staying home”, “we keep kosher and wouldn’t want to make things difficult for you”, and the famous “we can’t leave skippy (their dog) that long; he might die”. Ummm…seriously?
I always thought that maybe they just didn’t believe that I would abide by their laws of kashrut, or didn’t want the chaos of being in a houseful of people, or just weren’t comfortable, but, slowly, and with my persistance, they came. Yes, at first, they came with their own food, (who does that?!) but, eventually realizing that I had prepared specifically for them, they came without it. Jeff, did have to schlep back and forth to Brooklyn for them, but they wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. Over time came this little dance we would do…Me: “we’d love to have you.” Them: “We don’t want to trouble you.” Me: “What’s two more?” Them: “Okay; we’ll consider it.” (So non-committal, but, they were older, and often unwell). Even when his mom, Ruth, was ill and in the hospital, I could eventually convince his dad, Max, to come, and allow him to enjoy a walk around our neighborhood, which he so enjoyed, and he’d allow me to send back leftovers for Ruth. Over time, this became less and less often as they became less able to come and go, and it began to take a toll on those that had to “schlep” them. …And then they were gone, within a short time of each other. I never had the pleasure of having my own grandparents for a big family holiday, but I’d like to think that Ruth and Max represented that whole generation for me, and maybe even for anyone else that has been here.
Just a couple of weeks ago, my brother in law, Jeff and I were talking about how different it is to have so many less people coming this year, and he said something that stilled my heart…”you know”, he said, “my mother loved you… You were one of her favorite people…always including them, making food FOR them, and pushing them to get out and be a part of the family instead of alone.” I was speechless. I really had NO idea, and thought I had annoyed them continuously to leave their comfort zone. Sometimes you really have no idea what it means to be asked, again and again, to be a part of something. We all need to know that you really DO want us there. So, if you’re like me, make lots of food, and can’t scale to size anyway, or even not so much, think of asking someone to join you, that has turned you down before, because hey, what’s two more?