i tell this story every once in a blue moon -- usually around thanksgiving time because that's when this happened. and usually i get teary-eyed when i think about it. here's my best thanksgiving day story.
first off, u have to know that my mom was my best friend. i could talk to her about anything -- and i did. and she was the best cook i know. it was mostly self-taught coz her mom (my grandma) was a lousy cook. so my mom learned how to cook by watching other ppl and asking questions and reading cookbooks. she was an amazing person. she also, most of the time, made up recipes in her head and there they pretty much stayed. she rarely measured anything -- she just knew by looking if it was the right amount. and her food always was great. scalloped potatoes -- always the same consistency. she also felt this was a way to give something of herself to other ppl -- by gathering them around her table to feed them. it was her way of loving on us.
the other neat thing about her was that she always had an open door to anyone -- and i mean anyone -- she even let me bring home the hobos from the train station that wasn't more than half a block from our house -- to have dinner with us. she never showed any sort of disgust at the way they might appear -- she just invited them in and sat them down and fed them like they were family -- coz to her -- they were.
with all this cooking that went on, u would think that i would have gotten some sort of culinary ability -- but see even though i sat in my mom's kitchen and watched and sometimes she'd let me help, my brain never really paid all that close attention to what she was actually doing. i guess there was some part of me that thought i'd have mom forever so why did i need to learn to do it.
so u can imagine when my mom died when my son was just 3 months old how lost i was without her. i even said to my dad, how am i gonna learn to be a good mom now without my mom to show me how. and he said -- "she already showed u how -- by her example". still -- i missed my mom -- and when that first thanksgiving came around and we wouldn't be spending it with her and my dad (he went to my brother's in texas), i was lost.
i said to my then husband that i wanted to do thanksgiving like mom would have -- thinking it might ease my grief. little did i know what an impact that statement would have. i didn't know where to begin. a turkey and some stuffing seemed like a daunting enough task, but the big thing would be my mom's sweet potatoes. see my mom had her own way of doing sweet potatoes and there was no written recipe in any of her cookbooks for them. what i knew was that she always made them in an electric skillet and she always put apples in them. but beyond that, i really didn't have a clue. so my husband suggested i get the things i needed to make the meal, and at the grocery store i had a keen sense that i was to get 5 sweet potatoes and 3 granny smith apples. i didn't know y that ratio was important, but that's what i felt i needed.
the day came to make the meal and of course i have a 9 month old to tend to as well as make the dinner. after putting the turkey in the oven, i stood in the kitchen for what seemed like forever staring at those sweet potatoes and apples thinking, lord help me i wish my mom were here. suddenly i felt like i was being told -- in my head -- what to do. put the butter in the pan, a little more, good. peel and cut up the potatoes, and put them in the pan with the melted butter, good. now peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks, and put them in the pan with the potatoes, good. okay now add some brown sugar -- a little more, that's good. and don't forget the king syrup -- ok a little more -- good. ok now just let it all cook for a while and stir it occasionally. it was like my mom was there in the kitchen with me, telling me what to do, looking over my shoulder -- it was comforting and odd at the same time.
when it was all said and done, i was afraid to try them. i mean i still had the taste of mom's potatoes in my head -- it wasn't a memory i wanted to lose by trying someone else's. so i told my husband to try them and he said they tasted just like my mom's. then i tasted them and they did taste just like my mom's. that first thanksgiving with my son and without my mom -- was a turning point for me in the grieving process. my son had his first taste of my mom's sweet potatoes -- and i learned to live without my mom.
i would like to believe that papa god let my mom be there in that kitchen with me helping me that day. her one last blessing. because ever since that day those sweet potatoes have become a staple in our home. i make them every thanksgiving and christmas. sometimes i even make them just for the heck of it. whenever we go to my dad's he asks me to make them, and his girlfriend has gotten the recipe from me to make them as well. idk if my kids will ever carry on this tradition in their own homes, but i'd like to think that that little piece of my mom would carry down from generation to generation. that and her love for her family and all ppl. thanks mom -- u truly were the greatest mom and i still miss u!