My Grandmother, on Thanksgiving

The first Thanksgiving dinner Craig and I hosted was in the first year of our marriage.  Not only were we newlyweds, but I had just moved half way across the country to our home in Illinois.   Even after a few months as married couple, we were still learning to how to live with each other and I was learning how to be a mid-westerner.    Who was I if I no longer called California home?  Who were my friends?  How did I make friends?  What am I doing here?

These questions and more hung on my shoulders daily, waiting only for time to show me the answers.  In this state of mind, I prepared for my first feast. I dried bread for stuffing and baking loaves of cranberry bread.  I spent hours pealing and chopping carrots, celery and onions, which seemed to be needed for every recipe I was to prepare.

The night before Thanksgiving, having chopped so many root vegetables that the knife seemed like an extension of my own hand, I looked down at the piles of orange, green and white on my cutting board, and I suddenly saw not my own, but my grandmother's hands.  And as I lifted my head to answer Craig's question, my wrist flicked, clutching the knife, as I remember my grandmother's doing and suddenly I found myself in my grandmother's galley kitchen in the house on Wilma Way.  She was peeling potatoes, a small pairing knife deftly removing their brown jackets. Her cutting board sits on her brown and white tile counter, with her green Tupperware canisters lined against the backsplash.  And she turned to talk to my grandfather, sitting at the round kitchen table pushed  against the window, folded newspaper and cup of coffee in front of him.

Every memory I had of my grandmother, stored somewhere - in my heart I guess - came rushing to my mind. The sound of her deep, rumbling laugh.  Her head wrapped in a silky turban, at her last Thanksgiving, sitting - and my grandmother never sat - as her daughters made dinner.    Folding paperbag book covers for Nancy Drew books on her bed.  Stacks and stacks of piano song books.

And then the memory that is so clear, I have always wondered if it is real or if it is a dream.  I am nine years old and have said good bye to my grandmother, laying in her bed, for the last time.  I turn to walk down the dusky hall and she calls after me, "Always stand up straight and tall, Megan.  You are a California Redwood."

In that moment, as I travel 20 years and 2000 miles to my husband and my home, so far from everything I grew up with, I am at peace with the unknown future I am forging with Craig.  I know where I came from.  I am a California Redwood.

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