My Recipe for Thanksgiving
by Lori L. Sikorski
I was nine years old when I had my first cup of coffee. In an adult mug, laced with both cream and sugar. It was Thanksgiving 1972. I know this date not because of my first cup of java but because it was the day that my father, John Sheehan, let me stuff the holiday turkey.
When I was growing up, my father traveled a lot, sometimes only being home hours over a weekend before heading out to the next job site. My mother did most of the cooking for my two sisters and me. She certainly could hold her own in the kitchen, but it was my father who took the honor of preparing our Thanksgiving feast each year. It was his way of thanking us for being his family.
I can recall him sitting at his drafting table on a crisp early November evening - not going over blueprints but instead recipe cards. He had a small box in which he would stash any recipe that looked interesting. Choices made, he would jot down needed items on the shopping list and tuck this away until the Sunday before the big event.
Usually my sister Kelly and I would accompany him to the market. Unlike our mother, he would let us wander the aisles and sneak grapes.
That was the only time we were close to the turkey until it appeared again all golden brown. Those early Thursday mornings, he would hold domain over the kitchen. We would intrude only to grab some cereal before plopping down to watch the parades. So it was both a shock and an honor when I was asked to share this ritual with him.
That was the first of many Thanksgivings I shared in the kitchen with daddy. Even when I got older and that precious no-school-today sleep was mine for the taking, I would find my way to the kitchen to chop celery. Our cooking music was Glenn Miller. How I enjoyed sharing the Big Bands, the kitchen space and a pot of coffee with my dad.
My first Thanksgiving away from home, I longed for his turkey and stuffing. It was hard for me, but I survived. Within a year my parents joined my new family in New Mexico. So the tradition continued during my married life and after Hollie and Joey were born.
The year after my mother died, Dad and I still shared the morning together, only this time he was in my kitchen.
When Paul, the kids and I moved to DC., my father chose Thanksgiving time for his visit. Carving knives and recipe box in tow, he made his way over the river and through the woods.
After Thanksgiving of 1995, he expected to return home the next spring. When he discovered he had pancreatic cancer, we spent the summer and fall going through surgery and treatments. The Thanksgiving of 1996, we had something extra to be thankful for. The chemotherapy and radiation were over. My father was looking and feeling much better.
Together he and I went grocery shopping. We rolled out pie crusts and put Glenn Miller on the stereo. We laughed and cried over memories of my mother. I was doing the majority of the cooking. He had taken my place as the assistant. Sometime during the mashing of the potatoes, he laid his recipe box on the counter. "This is yours, babes," he said. "Although I doubt if you need it."
It was then that I knew this would be his last Thanksgiving. My father left us the following April. Our roles had been reversed not only in the kitchen but in life as well. I cared for him, tucked him in at night and held his hands when he was afraid. I told him how much I loved him - and how special he made me feel each Thanksgiving morning.
This year I will take out my father's recipe box as I have the last two years without him and make my grocery list. Glenn and I will have our coffee as we peel the sweet potatoes. There is no longer a place set at the table for my father, but his place remains set in my heart.
| Issue 46 |
Volume VII Number 46
November 18-24, 1999
New Bay Times
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