As I watch my fingers tear into the white squares of bread, time and memory shift into the past. Gradually, my hands shrink down to the size of an eight-year-old, still ripping bread into tiny pieces. At the stove, my mother sauté’s onions and celery in butter as she instructs me on how much parsley, thyme, and rubbed sage I should add onto the bread. Not a single measuring spoon in sight. I eyeball every herb to determine if I’ve added enough. Three eggs cracked and mixed into the bowl add moisture. Mom tips her pan into the dish, “Hot, hot, hot!” she warns my fingers away. I massage the doughy blend as she adds chicken broth. Every step done by sight and feel until the dressing molds “just so” within my hands.
Now, I break and separate eggs, carefully placing the yolks into a large glass bowl. These I mix by hand. Again, my thoughts drift back to another Thanksgiving where I stand on a stepstool to see over the counter as my Aunt Nellie and Mom laugh together, each of them balancing a bowl with a dozen egg yolks, their hands whipping forks in syncopation. From a huge canister, they carelessly measure out flour with an old coffee mug. They stir, add more flour, and gossip about friends and family. I barely contain my excitement as I watch their magic. Mom signals for me to move to the flour dusted kitchen table. My eyes never leave her hands as she sets the dough onto the table and kneads it few more times before handing me a rolling pin. I clumsily begin to press it all out. I sensed, even then, that the tradition would pass from them to me.
Today, my hands skillfully work the same flour and egg mix. My rolling pin never once flounders. The ritual brings me comfort. Three years ago today, Mom died. So I tap into her strength as I prepare her special side dishes. Frequently, I catch myself wanting to share some small part of my day with her because it’s all of those little moments that hold a family together. Thankfulness fills me because my grief’s moved into that gentle stage where I find myself remembering Mom more and more without the horrors of Huntington’s disease.
Copyright 2015 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman