Except for the loss of my red-bell-bottom-hip-hugger-button-down jeans, nobody was happier to leave adolescence behind than me.
Lacking discernment, I left much of the past behind to set off in search of myself never really thinking about the fragments caught in the aftermath that I would later mourn the loss of.
Luckily, after raising my own kids and beginning my journey as a caregiver for my mother, life brought me full circle with an opportunity to reclaim a little bit of the past.
As I reminisced one day with my cousin, Carol, I felt an incredible sadness begin to well up in me. I was losing my mother, having just discovered her in some ways, and the weight of her decline encompassed a larger sense of loss that stretched back into my childhood. I was losing even the smaller things connected to her, like my grandmother’s stuffed breads.
“They’re not lost,” Carol said looking me squarely in the eye.
Having grown up just down the street from my grandparents, Carol and her sisters had absorbed my grandmother’s recipes into their blood.
“Let’s set a date and we’ll make some,” she suggested. With Christmas on the horizon, it seemed the perfect opportunity.
My mother couldn’t come to Carol’s house for the gathering. Weeks earlier she had become confused, lost her balance, and landed in the hospital. While she was gaining ground, our ability to help her to move and assist her in her daily functioning wasn’t enough to make it safe for her, or for us, anymore.
Knowing she’d be well supplied in homemade goodies and bread after our get-together, she was content to stay put so that she didn’t have to brave the cold or risk the dangerous ice.
With the snow falling, our small but enthusiastic group of cousins, nieces, and daughters gathered in Carol’s kitchen filling every bowl, counter, and table space available. Cheeses, sausage, and olives from a local Italian market were laid out.
Adrienne, my cousin Cindy’s daughter, though much younger than me had grown up with these comfort foods. She moved easily around the dough bowl without even the thought of a recipe. My daughter, Cori, at 22 years old discovered for the first time the oil cured olives I had grown up on. “Where have these been all my life?” she teased. “You’ve been withholding!”
Our indulgence felt good.
I wondered if Cori felt a connection to the generations of grandmothers who, in this passing on of their recipes, now became a part of her.
Exhausted by the end, I felt deeply satisfied in ways that couldn’t be measured or explained. Something inside me had cracked wide open.
Was it the spirit of my grandmother whirling around calling me to remember?
There’s been no turning back. I continue to knead life deeply incorporating ingredients from my past and present, aware that sometimes when I share what I need, things can circle back from a lifetime ago and restore me in ways I could never imagine.
Technically I shouldn’t even be thinking about food while the Thanksgiving belly bloat is still so fresh. But I am. On Saturday, we’ll gather in Carol’s kitchen for our 3rd annual Cousin’s Baking Day. Even though Mom passed away a little over a year ago, my sense is that she’ll be there with us maybe even snitching an olive or two.
Pop back in on Sunday for pictures of our bread and one of our recipes…or better yet come visit with me at the Spiritus Christi craft fair at Hochstein from 11 – 12:30 where Darrell will be sharing his crooked handle baskets and I’ll be offering a bite of my Maple Cream Cheese coffee cake!
Have you reclaimed a holiday tradition or food from your past? Lost a recipe that you wished you still had? Share it below. We’d love to hear about it!