A Large Serving of Joy, Please.
I hope your Thanksgiving was enjoyable, filled with family and friends, good food and good memories. Thanksgiving serves as starting line for the holidays for most people I know. At least, it does in this house. I am glad that we begin the entire holiday season with gratitude, following up with a month long party of joy, love, hope and peace. But I have a small confession to make: Over the past few of years, I have not felt so grateful. In fact, I was low on the joy level as well. So many changes have occurred that affect the family dynamic of the holidays.
First, my mom left this earth to dwell in heaven. Good for her. Not so good for me. I am so pleased when all is said and done, we will see one another again. That is a comfort, but for now, I just miss her. I think of several things a day that I want to ask her or tell her. It’s tough, and on the holidays it seems to magnify the feeling of loss I have. I imagine I will always feel this way although time will smooth some of the jagged edges disappointment brings because of her absence.
Then, there are the girls. Two of my three daughters moved out of state. Not a short jaunt, but halfway across the country. Both they and their husbands work in food service or retail, so for them the holidays exist in the form of serving others. No time to come home and enjoy a meal at Mom’s house. And even with one daughter living close by and anxious to share the special times with me, I let myself sink into a bit of a pity party hoping the holidays would just slip by. Then, life could just continue with its routine. It would be better that way. Right?
Hardly. This year, I have come to my senses. I realized I need lovely, new memories of a holiday shared with loved ones nearby while reminiscing about the ones who were not. I want a fresh store of memories to go with the ones in the “remember the time when” bank in my heart.
So, that is exactly what I am setting out to do. I am embracing the holiday I have in front of me, and enjoying the memories of times past. Open heart, pour in thanksgiving, good memories old and new, and laughter. Mix well. Produces an abundant serving of hope, love, peace and joy.
It is a fine seasoning for joy to think of those we love.
Part of my reminiscing brought about thoughts of my mom’s kitchen and a cake she used to bake. It was an Apple Cake with Caramel Frosting. I don’t know the recipe she used so I found one that was comparable. On Thanksgiving, we enjoyed it alongside some pretty decadent desserts that came from other people’s kitchens as a finish to a wonderful meal. It brought Mom just a little closer that day.
The funny thing about the Thanksgiving feast is that every household has their traditional foods that must be served or it just wouldn’t seem like Thanksgiving. They bring back memories of good times, and with them—a measure of comfort. My grandson brought another Marine home for the holiday and I asked him what the traditions were in his family. His mama, he said, always made chocolate cream and lemon meringue pies for every special occasion. Luckily, I had the ingredients for the lemon pie so I whipped one up. I’m sure it didn’t quite measure up to the one his mama made, but my desire to offer a familiar tradition to a young man far from home was appreciated.
It’s funny that the name of the apple cake recipe turned out to be Mom’s.
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½-1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 cups apples, peeled and diced
- ½ butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish.
- Cake: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and baking soda. Beat together until well-incorporated. Stir in the apples.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool completely before adding the topping.
- Topping: In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils. Boil without stirring for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately spread over the top of the cooled cake. Let sit for an hour prior to serving.