My family has a tradition for Thanksgiving. The night before the big dinner, the grandkids all gather at my parents' house. We lay a giant sheet down on the carpet, and set two plastic tubs on top of it. Then we take turns scrubbing the kids' fingernails and hands.
Finally, when everyone is clean (relatively speaking), we each grab half a loaf of bread (special ranch bread that has been aging for four days) and we "shuffle" the bread into the tiniest crumbs we can manage.
|gathered round the stuffing tubs|
To use one's fingernails, scraping against the bread, in order to create... um... smaller pieces of bread. Nay, even crumbs. Or something in between crumbs and... whatever is the next size up.
After we shuffle the bread, we add my family's secret ingredients, that have been passed down for four generations. The ingredients include a buttload (a form of measurement from the 1800's) of rubbed sage and as much butter as "your conscience will allow." The recipe made it through the Great Depression, hence the "conscience will allow" measurement.
Nowadays though, my conscience will allow at least two buttloads of butter.
Did you know a buttload is an actual measurement? Okay, a "butt" is.
Here is one:
Anyway, once we have the dressing put together, we let it sit overnight. To marinate in its juices. Which doesn't sound like something you'd want stuffing to do, but trust me, it's good.
The next day, at some point while the turkey is cooking, somebody stuffs the bird with our dressing, infusing it with delicious turkey bodily fluids.
Every year, it's been my dad who does this part.
So this year, when we arrived at my mom's house, the turkey was finished cooking, and out of the oven, and the stuffing remained unstuffed.
Me: "Um, shouldn't the stuffing be... stuffed by now? Since the turkey's sitting there on the counter already?"
Mom: "I don't know. Should it be?"
Me: "Should it be... what? Stuffed? I would guess yes. It's kind of inherent in the name 'stuffing'."
We realized at that moment exactly why the stuffing hadn't been stuffed: we were missing the official stuffer. My dad.
But neither of us wanted to admit there was a problem. We both turned to my brother-in-law Dave, who is a doctor, and therefore isn't afraid to shove things in places not spoken of at parties.
Mom: "Dave, grab a bunch of the dressing and shove it in here." She pointed to the turkey's nether-regions.
Dave: "The turkey's already out of the oven. I see no benefit to stuffing it now. How come it wasn't stuffed previously?"
me: "Just stuff it, Dave! And stop asking questions!"
Dave (giving us a confused look): "Okay, fine. I'll stuff it."
He did, and we all stood around awkwardly, looking at the newly stuffed Turkey sitting there on the counter, and knowing it was all wrong. We waited about five minutes.
Then my mom was all: "Okay, Dave. Unstuff it now."
Dave: "That makes even less sense than stuffing it in the first place."
me: "Just do it, Dave! And Stop asking questions!"
Dave: "That wasn't a question. But here's a question. Your family has made stuffing every year for the last six decades. How come this year it's like we have no idea what we're doing?"
me: "Dave, you are asking for a beating."
Mom: "Brodi, stop threatening to beat up your brother-in-law."
When the loss is new, you try to keep everything the same, and rely on routine, or tradition to get you through. But what if the person you're missing was an integral part of that tradition? So much so that without him, the stuffing doesn't get stuffed?
Still, we didn't talk about why the stuffing didn't get stuffed. We didn't want to reopen the wounds. It took 6-year-old Kid B saying at the dinner table, with tears in his eyes, "I miss Grandpa" for us to realize the wounds had never closed. It's okay to talk about him. And miss him.
And as much as everything is the same, everything this year is different. But the sadder thing would've been if his loss made no difference at all.
I guess that's what I'm thankful for this year. The opportunity to have loved someone so much that his loss is felt.