Cranberry Jello on Thanksgiving
Tonight I doctored up cherry jello with cranberries, canned mandarin oranges, and Del Monte crushed pineapple. As I read the instructions on the box I felt like I was participating in some bizarrely foreign and slightly trashy ritual. I know I got all the proportions wrong- it definitely looked wrong, even though the cranberry jello was all poured into the same molds I carefully preserved from my grandmother after her death.
Thanksgiving was the one certainty for us growing up in a family that held few traditions. Every single Thanksgiving brought the same predictable scene, and it was a good one. It was always hosted at my grandparent’s home in Bodega Bay. The house was built with rough-cut redwood and afforded an amazing view of the Bay. Drinks and appetizers were served around 2. Smoked turkey, mashed potatoes, broccoli solemnly referred to as “trees”, salad, rolls, cranberry jello, and crustless pumpkin pie. Grandma’s amazing chestnut stuffing. Gravy, mashed potatoes, and more gravy. Five o’clock always found every last person stretched out in the living room, napping or complaining about the negative ions which family legend claimed emanated from the bay’s water and made us sleepy.
When my grandmother entered her 90’s, it became clear at some point that it was time to pass the torch. It has not been an easy transition for my family, maybe because we all have different ideas of what Thanksgiving should be now.
At the first sign of fall my sister came to me, a little emotional, and asked exactly what my plans were for Thanksgiving. I pretended not to get it and made it clear that this was a conversation I was not ready for until I had picked out Halloween costumes for my kids. There might have been some eye-rolling involved on my part.
The house in Bodega Bay was sold about eight years ago. I will never see the sun set from their dining room again. I have preserved my grandmother’s table, her buffet set, her glassware, and her booze box. I know these are not the things that made Thanksgiving what it was, and I try not to hold onto it all too tightly. Things change, people change. Time passes and people leave, no matter how much we love them. I understand what was bothering my sister because I feel it too.
Thinking about that cranberry jello in my refrigerator brings back more memories than are comfortable. I would give a lot to have one more night listening to my dad and grandma argue politics while the rest of us watch and grandpa pours more wine.
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