In anticipation of Thanksgiving I’d like to once again share a story about my great grandmother. This has appeared here before but it’s a story I never get tired of telling. I hope you don’t mind hearing it.
A Reason to Give Thanks
Despite being 32 years old I have had turkey on Thanksgiving perhaps 3 times in my life, there are two reasons for this. First from the age of 21 until 31 I didn’t eat meat, mostly this was because of a joke that got out of hand. Second, from the first time I celebrated Thanksgiving until I was 19, usually went to my Italian great grandmother’s for thanksgiving dinner where after the salad, soups, breads, and pasta the turkey was an afterthought, saved for sandwiches the next day or carved and sent home with us in care packages. My great grandmother would never think of sending us home without food and she would stay up all night to make sure there would be enough for everyone.
On any holiday I think of the care packages we were sent home with at the end of the day. Carefully wrapped in foil and placed in plastic bags was something for the next day because it wasn’t enough to just feed us once. My great grandmother was active and strong well into her 80’s but even as she slowed down and delegated some of the cooking to her daughters she insisted that there was enough for everyone to have at dinner and also for the next day.
I also remember how she used to make pizzelles, which are traditional Italian cookies made with a press, like a waffle iron. Pizelles are thin, anise flavored, fancy looking and can be made by the hundreds which was the only way to make them according to my family. Needless to say when my great grandmother made them, she did so in huge quantities so we could take them home with us. I would watch her in the upstairs kitchen pouring batter and pressing down the iron again and again. I had to watch from across the room though because she was very concerned for my safety…after all that press was hot.
Eventually the little woman who was strong enough to hold an entire family together became ill and while she fought bravely she passed away in October of 1994. After the funeral the family gathered at her house because that was the place we always gathered and while the house was the same we knew we’d never be the same again, we had all lost our caretaker and guide. No one would tell us to stay away from the coffee pot because it was hot and no one would send us home each week with packages of pasta and cookies. However, we wouldn’t go home empty handed that day. In the kitchen upstairs someone opened the freezer and found them, dozens of carefully wrapped packages of pizzelles, each one labeled with a names on it. Sometime in the final week of her life my grandmother stayed up all night cooking one last time, and carefully wrapping up packages of cookies for us so that we didn’t leave her house empty handed, even if she wasn’t there anymore.