This story originally appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of from house to HOME magazine.
Thanksgiving 2004 found my husband and me with no plans. My son was off with his dad, and all my family were out of town. I decided to make a small Thanksgiving dinner for us.
Growing up, Thanksgiving meant going to Grandma and Granddad’s house all the way across the state of North Dakota to eat Grandma’s incredible homemade buns, out-of-this-world sweet potatoes covered in cream, brown sugar, marshmallows, butter, and pecans, stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, green beans, homemade cranberry relish, pumpkin pie, mincemeat tarts, and the list goes on and on. This was a major meal that took days of careful preparation so that everything came together at the same time to create the perfect Norman Rockwell moment. My grandma never disappointed.
By 2004, Grandma was living in a nursing home directly across the street from my apartment. I saw her many times a week, but as I was preparing my version of her meal, I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness that Grandma couldn’t enjoy this, too. I lived 45 stairs up, and Grandma was in a wheelchair. My husband did one of the most amazing things he has ever done in our nearly nine years together. He said, “Let’s take it all over to her.”
We packed up the roasted turkey breast, the potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the homemade buns, the green beans, the stuffing, the Brussels sprouts, and the tarts and pie, and we headed over to Grandma’s where I had reserved a little family dining room. We sat down to that meal together—a meal that was nothing like what hers had always been: the gravy was a little lumpy, the turkey breast was kind of dry, the sweet potatoes were on the cold side, and as long as I live I will never bake bread as well as she did, but she turned to me at one point and said, “This tastes like home.”
Grandma died that December 15, and I will be grateful for the rest of my life that I was able to share that last holiday with her. It was a lot of work to haul all that food over there, and a lot of it wasn’t even very good, but it was one of the most blessed experiences of my life.
This holiday season, as you are busy planning meals and parties and running around getting everything done, don’t forget that it’s not about the food or the stuff, it’s about the time you take to spend with the ones you love. Happy Holidays!
Photo of one of my favorite corners of the house we lived in in Wyndmere, ND, until I was 6. My mother always decorated it for the holidays, and I absolutely adored these little figurines and the corncob cabin she made at a women’s circle she belonged to.