A Letter To My Mom at Thanksgiving

Mom Presents the Turkey
Circa: 1953
Photo by Marv

Dear Mom,

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and with it, a memory of waking to the smell of roasting turkey and the sight of you at the kitchen counter, hands white with flour, rolling out dough for your cinnamon-spiced, two-crust apple pie.

All these years later, I write to tell you how much I appreciate the devotion and thoughtful attention you gave to every detail— the bread stuffing infused with sautéed onions and celery seasoned with sage, the crystalized sweet potatoes with melted marshmallow, the creamy potatoes mashed by hand, the cranberries, cooked down to a sweet confection, the steamed peas infused with fresh mint.

It was generous, how you included Dad’s widowed sister, Aunt Betty and cousins Caroline and Sylvia, to celebrate Dad’s November birthday on Thanksgiving. Always, you managed to bake a two-tier, chocolate frosted cake in advance.

What a quiet marvel of organization you were. In retrospect, I have come to appreciate the days of planning, shopping and cooking in that 1941 small and square kitchen with a compact refrigerator, single-oven and the one long counter. It helped that our kitchen table sat smack in the middle.

You were, of course, my model for Thanksgiving. Even in your eighties and widowed, you managed to continue to gather the family. You were fierce about your independence and cooking was your passion. That last Thanksgiving, in spite of waning energy, you took such pride in your turkey, still moist and delectable, and your single crust apple pie, the filling as always, a tart sweetness.

I recall your pleasure, from the few times you joined us in Newton—at how I experimented with new recipes—sweet potatoes, sans marshmallow, just a little nutmeg and maple syrup. I never did perfect a piecrust. With a full time job, I sought out shortcuts; freezer ready crust filled with my own sour cherry filling (Marv’s favorite) did the trick.

We have three generations following in your footsteps. When it was time for me to stop hosting, Beth stepped up and I became a helper.

My granddaughters, Genna and Shayna, were nine and six the first time they helped prepare your “Grandma Goldie Stuffing.” I toasted bread in the oven. Genna sliced the celery and soldiered through onion tears, to create perfect cuts for sautéing. Shayna zested the orange skin for the fresh cranberry sauce and helped snip the green beans. The three of us mixed the stuffing.

This Thanksgiving, the girls now grown, Genna has taken over the stuffing preparation while Shayna will join me the day before  to start a new tradition. We plan to bake pumpkin pies, a new recipe, and of course, trim the beans in preparation for my traditional sesame green beans.

All these years later, I am grateful for the nourishment to spirit and body you ignited. As always, I will miss your sweet smile of contentment at the table.

Much love, your daughter,





19 thoughts on “A Letter To My Mom at Thanksgiving

  1. Gerry

    WOW, I was blown away by yourvsweet memories and the updated, current generations involvement.
    Your words instantly brought back memories of my own bubbie and mother cooking thanksgiving.
    The warmth of thier smiles, the scent of thier efforts waifting through the house and of course the loving comfort of who they were.
    I look forward to this thanksgiving which will add more loving memories to my fortunate life.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Gerry, I so your appreciate your comment and your own sweet memories of your mother and bubbie cooking for Thanksgiving. I also look forward to the fun and pleasure of being together at Beth’s on Thanksgiving.

  2. Sue Neff

    Brought tears to my eyes as you brought my experience of Thanksgiving into a bright loving memory. Our mothers were very similar. Thank you…

    1. fayewriter Post author

      How sweet to learn that our mothers were similar. We were fortunate. I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  3. Beverly Bader

    Such an endearing letter to your mom Goldie!
    She creatively expressed herself in her baking and cooking, especially for her dear family, whom she adored feeding her delicious foods.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Faye, to you, Marv and family!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Bev, yes, I have come to appreciate how amazingly creative she was. I was fortunate to have her as a model. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  4. Pat

    Faye… such a lovely tribute to your mom. So not only did she make the delicious meal but dressed for the occasion .
    Also love the beautiful wallpaper behind her in the photo, I can smell the turkey cooking as I write this. Seems her daughter has followed in her footsteps as a creative and good cook!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Pat, I so enjoyed your attention to Mom’s festive dress and yes, the beautiful and formal wallpaper in the dining room in fact reminds me a little of yours! Casual was not in vogue in dress or at the table. Yes, the cooking and effort at creativity goes on, as you well know.

  5. Hy Kempler

    Touching. You reminded me of my mom and her thanksgiving ritual, making cheese krepelach, not turkey. She rolled the dough and cut out the triangular dough forms. Then she filled them with farmer cheese. They lay on the board hardening and eventually put in a dish and cooked them and glazed them with butter browning them. Family members would stop by to sample them and take some home. Mom was happy to accept kudos from everyone. There was never a turkey dinner.
    Thanks for stirring up this memory.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      I Hy, I’m so touched by the story of your mom’s krepelach ritual at Thanksgiving. What a delightful memory, especially the fact that it became a tradition in your extended family and that she shared them. I love the kudos part; and why not, after all that effort!

  6. Claudine

    Faye, what a beautiful piece. My mother did not cook and was not American so I only found the joys of Thanksgiving after I was married when my late husband David, who began cooking and baking with Julia Child and went from Challah to later Thanksgiving extravaganzas. How fortunate you were and how wonderful to carry on with your family. Keep writing…you bring readers much joy

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Claudine, I so enjoyed reading your story of how you and David evolved to Thanksgiving extravaganzas. (what a wonderful word!) I’d love to hear more details of your menu at some point. Thank you for all your support of my writing.

  7. Faye Rapoport DesPres

    What a lovely tribute, and also an example of how sensory details can bring writing to life and invite the reader into the narrator’s world — even when that world is decades back in time.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      I so appreciated your writerly comment and especially the phrase “invite the reader into the narrator’s world.” Our goal as writers, always! Thank you, Faye!!

    2. fayewriter Post author

      I appreciated your writerly comment, especially “invite the reader into the narrator’s world.” Always our goal as writers! Thank you, Faye!

  8. Rosemary Booth

    What a moving tribute. I like how the author’s respectful offering of words mirrors her mother’s offering of a delectable large-family meal each Thanksgiving: a gift marked by generosity, diligence, open-heartedness–and success! The joyful photo adds yet another reflection…

    1. fayewriter Post author

      I so appreciate your thoughtful comment and especially the framework of a “respectful offering of words” rooting my post. Yes, it’s quite remarkable how the picture shows Mom’s pure pleasure over her offering.

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