For: Thursday Nov. 25, 2010
Today is Thanksgiving – when families all over the country gather together to visit, eat, pray, share and remember what we are thankful for.
As a young child, I remember my Granny who always cooked Thanksgiving dinner at her Regent Street home for six adults, seven children and assorted guests. The kitchen was the place you found her from early morning till the mid-day feast. My 12th Thanksgiving I had the privilege of being “Granny’s Helper” in the kitchen. As I assisted my grandmother, I could look out the three windows ceiling to floor that overlooked the back yard. Outside I could see my two older boy cousins playing on the iron swing set.
The kitchen was about 18 by 30 feet, stretching from the front to the back of the house. Green print linoleum covered the floor topped by a rectangle table – wood on top with green legs and eight ladder back chairs. The focal point of the room was the Franklin gas stove with its massive oven and the high top back where she kept the pies and vegetables warm as she stirred her delicious gravy.
One year Granny taught me how to make her special gravy recipe which I continue to create today. She pulled a green ladder back chair up to the stove and I stood on it.
“Wait,” she commanded as she walked to the pantry door and pulled down a multi-green print apron from the inside hook. Granny made these clothes protectors, and I received one of her last creations as part of my wedding present from her. She hooked the top bib around my neck, tucking the long ends of the tie into the back of my dress. Then she folded up the apron at my waist and tied it securely behind my back. It fell nearly to my ankles.
On the right side was a deep pocket trimmed with lace. I slipped my twelve-year-old hand into the pocket and found three paper clips, a safety pin, a crinkled but unused Kleenex, and a plastic bottle cap. I climbed back up on the chair and she gave me a whisk made of little wooden sticks.
The drippings of the turkey bubbled in the pan. I added flour and stirred. She doubled up the apron around her palm and picked up a cast iron pot and poured in some water from the cooked squash. I stirred. Next she added some dark brown liquid from a little bottle, turning the gravy a rich dark brown. Then she wiped the neck with her apron before screwing on the top.
As I stirred, little drops of gravy splashed on my face. Granny slipped her fingers into a corner of her apron and wiped my face. Before dropping the coverlet, she wiped the stove top of spatterings.
Both hands wrapped in the apron corners, she reached into the long thin oven at the right and pulled out the cast iron muffin pans. Holding the apron with one hand, she quickly picked the muffins our and dropped them into her cupped apron and dispatched them into a linen lined basket.
I realized her apron was a part of the persona. With it she carried on her kitchen duties. But it also served as a hiding place for my shy four-year-old sister. When Granny went to the back door to call in my cousins, she wrapped the ends around her bare arms for warmth. With her apron she dried tears, carried vegetables in it from the garden, dropped the hulls into it as she sat at the table shelling peas. She waved it to call in the men from their croquet game to the dining room table. And finally she dropped it into the laundry basket, smoothed her blue print dress, and sat at the head of the table to serve her Thanksgiving dinner.