Dad’s parents live in Scotland. I’ve only seen them a handful of times. He has gone to visit them a couple of times, usually on his own. I have always gotten the feeling that Mom is uncomfortable about her in-laws. There is a story that is not being told to me about the background of their marriage and Dad’s side of the family. Dad gets along great with Granna and Gramps, and for the longest time I didn’t think I had any other grandparents. Then when I was about four we drove to the airport, something I hadn’t done before. The jets, different kinds of people, and the busyness of the place absolutely dazzled me. Being in a state of awe of my surroundings I wasn’t prepared for the silver-haired couple who hugged Dad and greeted Mom. I leaned close to Mom when the man smiled down and greeted me as “Wee bonny lass.” The woman smiled at me as well, and said, “Och, Tommy, she has her eyes and nose of your Grandmere.” This I found confusing. As far as I knew I had my own eyes and nose. The strangeness of their speech, yet their warmth and friendliness mixed me up. My parents hadn’t done much to prepare me for their visit. Dad’s parents had rarely had been mentioned in our house. My initial wariness melted on the way back to our house.
At the time we were renting a small house, Granna, dad’s mother exclaimed, “Tommy, it’s a bit of a cottage. I thought all Americans live in mansions on a lake.” In later years I realized Granna and Golly, which is the name Dad’s father said was his very much real name, had an odd sense of humor. Their words sounded serious, yet there was something about how they said them sounded like they were laughing, but they didn’t laugh out right. Their visits tended to be around two weeks and maybe five years in between. Dad wants me to go to Scotland for the next visit, saying his folks are getting much too old and the changes in traveling have confused them. Since they have always seemed old to me I couldn’t imagine them getting any older.
In some ways they seem so sharp and clear. I probably wasn’t aware of it when I was four but I saw them differently when I was nine on their second visit. I noticed that Dad’s words sounded much like his father’s, with that brrr-ing sound to his speech. Dad became even more easygoing and cheerful with his parents around.
Mom, on the other hand, became more quiet. She and Granna didn’t talk much together and I could tell when they did talk they were talking about the right things. It’s like a whole separate conversation existed underneath the one they were having. I noticed a sort of stiffness when they talked together. Even at nine I sensed a tension between Mom and Granna. I knew that conversant tension because I had experienced it first hand.
I had gotten into a fight with a girl named Bethany over something, who knows what at that age, and though we had supposedly made up we tended to be a little stiff with each other, like we weren’t having a true conversation, the one we really wanted to have. It was like our real words needed to come out, except they didn’t. If those words had come out they may not have been very nice because even though we were nice to each other I don’t think either one of us would admit we were still ticked off at the other.
That’s how it was with Granna and Mom. I wondered if they had some unresolved tiff between them. Yet, grown up adult women didn’t have tiffs like silly nine year old girls, or did they? It still makes me curious. I didn’t know how to go about asking the question then, and I’m not sure I would know what question to ask now.
“So, Mom are you ticked off about something Granna did or didn’t do?“ Or “Granna, how come your accent gets even thicker when talking to Mom and your eyes have a bit of unhappy about them when you talk to her?“ Some questions need remain unasked.
As soon as Granna and Golly returned to Scotland Dad became a little sad and Mom wore this look of release, the type similar I get when I would I get to peel my best dress and pinchy black dress shoes after church when I was little and trade the scratchy discomfort for jeans and a t-shirt. Someday I will ask the “what‘s up” with my Mom and Gran. We tend to not ask the unaskable questions in our house.
Our little threesome, Mom, Dad, and me, we don’t interfere and prod and poke into one another’s business. Call it respect or understood boundaries, we don’t talk a lot about our feelings. A little. Not too much. We like it like that. It’s how I grew up and I didn’t know any other way. I do have questions to ask. Someday I’ll toss them out and see what will happen. Maybe I’m old enough to ask and get some answers about Mom and Granna.
This should be the year when Granna and Golly come, but Dad did say it’s time for me to visit them. I think I am slowly working my way up for such a huge trip. Only if he comes with me. I hope he’s coming if we are planning on going clear to Scotland. I wonder if Dad would be willing to swing by France? Now that would be a memorable summer vacation.
As for Thanksgiving this year? Definitely memorable.
Gran called up saying she and Gramps were getting over the flu and Gran said she wasn’t up to cooking the big dinner this year. This left Mom in one of her states of meltdown.
“I can’t believe she expects me to whip up a Thanksgiving dinner all on my own!” she said in that almost wail she tends to do when getting stressed out. Dad immediately took over. He is quite good at that. I stayed in my room and wrote about guinea pigs. I did come out briefly for a snack. The tension was thicker than Mom’s attempt at gravy.
“It’ll be an adventure. We’ll make the pies. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a pie. You know your mom must be ill to blithely give out her heirloom pie recipes like that. I wonder if we could sell her recipes on E-Bay?” This was Dad trying to convince Mom that Thanksgiving could happen. I know Gran must have been sick to give Mom her recipes.
It’s a family joke that Gran’s recipes are so handed down that we could probably declare them as national treasures. I think the pie crust recipe has won a few blue ribbons at the county fair. Gran still enters those. She was a die hard 4-H leader when Mom was a kid. Mom for all her years in 4-H never got the knack of cooking. Good thing Dad learned to cook, and in fact he had considered becoming a chef except he decided he liked to sit and create a masterpiece with words instead of standing on his feet to create one with food. He does cook well, when he does decide to cook.
“It’s too late to pick up a turkey. It takes at least three days for it to thaw. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey. This isn’t what I wanted to deal with, I got a deadline to work on,” Mom fretted flipping through cookbooks.
Dad kissed Mom’s forehead frowns and said, “I’ll be back,” in his cheesy Terminator imitation. He winked at me, and said, “Staying? Or do you want to be my navigator?” Seeing Mom’s mood, I decided to go with Dad.
To make it all short and to the point. Dad pulled it off. We got all the ingredients needed from Gran’s recipes, but then Dad did something incredibly smart–he bought a Thanksgiving dinner instead. No kidding. We were wheeling our cart by the deli and saw the sign advertising the no fuss Thanksgiving dinner special. Smart marketing. The local grocery store must know there are other families who run into Thanksgiving dinner glitches and with that knowledge they prepare the whole dinner, turkey slices (you specify dark, white or combo), mashed potatoes, the vegetable (bean casserole, broccoli florets, or baby glazed carrots) and rolls. Salads and pies are extra. You can build your own dinner, mixing and matching for as many people as needed. Dad opted to buy only the turkey slices and a carton of gravy. “I really suck at gravy,” he laughed. “Worse than your Mom’s. I do make a mean twice baked potato casserole. We can do our own veggies, let’s get a package salad mix and pick up some rolls. Cranberry sauce. We definitely need cranberry sauce. Don’t ever tell your Gran, but I can’t stand the berry kind she gets.” Dad makes a face. “Little lumps of cranberry when it should be a nice smooth jell. Well, the chef on duty says its sauce on the table this time.”
Forty-five minutes later we wheeled our cart up to check out. We weren’t the only ones doing last minute T-Day fixings.
While my parents fussed around in the kitchen I escaped to my room and whipped up my own Turkey Day creation consisting of guinea pigs. Not to eat. Yuck! No, Twinkles got his share of salad fixings and tomorrow he’ll go back to Timmy’s. I’ll miss the little squeaker.
- Top 10 Thanksgiving Food Traditions (mryoungscholar.com)