“Hey Mom? What you cooking for tomorrow?” My daughter yelled from the kitchen.
“Well, I’m cooking greens, mashed potatoes, black eyed peas, fried cauliflower, corn on the cob… and I think I forgot the cranberry sauce, but I’ll pick some up later.”
“You not making Macaroni and Cheese?” she asked.
“Well, if I do, you know it will be vegan, and you don’t like that.” I chuckled. “But, you can make it yourself if you want it.” I laughed.
“Uggh”, she groaned and left the room.
This was yesterday’s conversation. The day before Thanksgiving. I hadn’t thought about Mac and Cheese and didn’t think about it for the rest of the day. Actually, I hadn’t thought about Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving dinner at all.. Which is not unusual because I rarely celebrate it, for obvious reasons. I do cook though, mainly because I’m a Mom and a Vegan Mom of Vegetarian children. So, rather than them feeling left out of family gatherings, it has become a tradition for me to cook vegan and vegetarian alternatives for Thanksgiving.
For over 15 years or so, I have cooked and stayed home during the holiday. It has become a day of mourning, purging and introspection for me. I rarely venture out and prefer not to, too. My daughters would always represent me and I would stay home. This year will be no different. Although, no one will be venturing out..thanks to COVID-19. This year has a bit more added grief.
The reason why I finalized my decision to not participate in Thanksgiving holiday was because of my Grandfather. He died the day after “Thanksgiving”. Yearly, I go through my subconscious grieving process, of weekly hiding and staying quiet and busy, in a sense preparing for the hurt to hit my heart.
This year, I lost my twin sister. She died in April. I’ve been going through my process. Doing the expected and the “not so expected”. I have been “Busy…Busy” and in “hermit mode” being “Busy..Busy”, which is not unusual or something that would warrant concern. I’m this way, every year at this time. Right?
“Right.” I convinced myself. For days, I have been “Busy…Busy”. Up long hours, and rising early. Sometimes, only 3 to 4 hours of sleep.
I was busy being “Busy..Busy” when my daughter questioned me about the Macaroni and Cheese yesterday. I was “Busy..Busy” when my father called yesterday, crying about missing my sister. I comforted him as best as I could, not wanting to get “too” emotional. But, I was very scripted and direct; saying, “Daddy, I know it hurts..but what would she want us to do? We gotta move on, we gotta keep doing what she would want us to do, which is to take care of ourselves and the family.”
After my conversation with my father, I continued my “Busy..Busy..work”. My sister, Monique came to visit yesterday. I didn’t think anything of it. I was “Busy..Busy”. Talked casually with her. Also, I spoke to 2 of my nieces and 2 of my nephews (my twin’s children) and the conversation was extremely casual. We talked about the day, who was cooking, and the usual day to day stuff. Not until 3 am, did reality hit me. I woke up with extreme nausea and the headache that I have had all week, started to make sense. I grabbed a bottled water and attempted to go back to sleep. But, I couldn’t.
All I could think about was “Macaroni and Cheese”. My twin sister’s Macaroni and Cheese, I began to cry. Almost, uncontrollably.
My sister, Jere would bake pans of Macaroni and Cheese for the family, every Thanksgiving holiday. She was “that one” of the family. You know how someone would bake and bring the pies, someone would fry the chicken, someone was good with the Greens..etc. My sister Jere was the Mac and Cheese “one”.
Most times she would bake a large pan to bring to my Grandparents home, a Large pan for her home, and then she would have a smaller pan for my home. Well, for my daughters…because I hated her Mac and Cheese!
It was always, too cheesy, too thick and just too much for me. Partly, because I didn’t eat dairy..but really I just didn’t see what the family fuss over “her” Mac and Cheese was. But, everyone loved her Mac and Cheese.
Every single year, that was the highlight of my daughter’s Thanksgiving holiday…”Mommy Jere’s Mac and Cheese”.
When my daughter mentioned the Macaroni and Cheese yesterday, it did not occur to me. I did not detect the whine in her voice. I did not hear a whisper in the space of her question, ask “Can you make it like Mommy Jere made it?”
But, at 3 this morning..and for most of the day, the missing of my sister’s Macaroni and Cheese has made me breathless. If only I could just smell it. If only I could see the faces of my daughters, her children, my father, and my mother, as she held the the big wide pan, with the burnt sides of aluminum, and she carried it, as if it were a prized, priceless possession.
I hate her Mac and Cheese, but I sure do wish I had it now.
Please be mindful of your loved ones. Overthink the possibilities of grief. Cherish, cherish, cherish the little things, because those little things sometimes are the biggest.