November 22, 2007

Beatrice's Feast

q. shenaynay

Thanksgiving has always meant a big feast with our extended family, full of beloved traditions and annual rituals. However, with my third surgery for breast cancer coming up this Wednesday, it's imperative that I stay rested up and well right now, so we decided to stay home and have a simple, quiet and hopefully germ-free Thanksgiving day.

A couple of weeks ago, I began to ponder how to make the big turkey dinner happen in my current state of being. I'm recovering well from the bilateral mastectomy back in September, but since I'm in the middle of reconstruction surgeries and physical rehab at this point, it's just not my year for wrestling 20 pound birds. I knew Fa couldn't help, because she was slated to be in the midst of her first semester of college finals. That left Beatrice. I was not about to ask an alllmossst 16 year old to pull off Thanksgiving by herself.

Before I even broached the subject, my gallant Great Scot sweetly ordered the entire meal. (Well, except for the cornbread dressing; I'm pretty sure the earth would stop spinning if we didn't pay annual homage to the famed and ancient family recipe.) I was relieved. If our family ever needed a special feast for giving thanks, it's this year.

Little did we know that Beatrice had been quietly planning our feast for many days.

She already had it handled. Menu decided, recipes selected, shopping lists made, everything. She asked her daddy to please cancel the order. All she needed was my debit card and a ride to the grocery store, and she said she'd do the rest.

We were taken aback, to say the least. Lump-in-the-throat taken aback. But then, our children have surprised us in so many amazing ways during these four months since I was diagnosed.

Children grow up fast when their mother gets diagnosed with cancer. Naturally, I have worried a lot -- daily, hourly -- about my children having to bear up under this sort of strain. But I have grown so thankful for the comfort of knowing that I do not have to be the Holy Spirit for my children. As He comforts me, He also comforts them. In His infinite love and mercy and goodness, He can work through all things, even my battle with breast cancer, for their good. And thus He has surely done.

On one level, my children are understandably exhausted from the wrenching trial we've been through over the past four months. But in so many other ways, they have grown strong beyond imagining. Living with them day after day, I can feel the quiet but profound shift -- they are deeper people than they were last summer; they have older souls. They are braver, stronger, more compassionate and alert to the needs of others. They now get the urgency of living in the here and now, a lesson many of us need at least one lifespan to learn.

They keenly feel the foolishness of waiting for a better moment to say the words that need to be said, of holding back warmth and affection from the people you love.

Beatrice quietly expressed all of that this Thanksgiving by doing for me and for our family what I/we could not do.

Fa looks on as Beatrice sprinkles her roasted candied pecans atop fresh green beans tossed in a savory cranberry sauce. This was unlike anything I've ever tasted, and it was fantastic. We all devoured it. In the foreground is the famed ancestral cornbread dressing. Beatrice is now at least the fifth generation of my family to make this dressing. Welcome to the Dressin' Hall of Fame, babe. ;-)

Behold the mushrooms, above. Mushrooms love this girl; there's no other explanation for why they humor her this way. Maybe it's homage for all those umpteen times she read The Hobbit. She made this dish up as she went -- a small miracle rendered from fresh organic chicken & apple sausage, mushrooms, garlic, onions, red bell peppers and fresh herbs sauteed in a sauce that I suspect we might be served in Heaven. The red bowl to the right holds mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. Yum.

A big bowl of butternut and acorn squashes roasted with parsnips, maple syrup, fresh thyme and oregano. Unbelievable. I'm having it for breakfast tomorrow. The casserole dish holds the aforementioned green beans.

And of course there was turkey and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, sparkling apple cider, iced tea and fresh hot coffee. Amazing.

Beatrice has officially put me in deep retirement from all culinary responsibility at Thanksgiving henceforth and anon. I mean, what rational woman would ever cook Thanksgiving again after today's exhibit... only to have the feasters sit there reminiscing fondly about The Year of Beatrice's Feast? Nope, I'm done. She's in. Something else to be thankful for, no?


G.L.H. said...

What a blessing! I'm sure Beatrice will treasure this year in her memory as well. Talk about "stepping up to the plate?" Incredible!

Gem said...

What a beautiful meal!!! If we beg sweetly, will she post recipes?

Tim said...

Cheers for Beatrice! I'm glad you all had such a good Thanksgiving.

And it's wonderful to have y'all blogging again.

Dawn said...

Oh, my goodness - that's amazing! I'm just so proud of her. Care to share the "famed and ancient family recipe" with those of us whose Aunt Thelma didn't write down the recipe for the best dressing I've ever had? It'll still stay in the family; your secret (recipe) is safe with me...

Mama Squirrel said...

Love and blessings--I'll link too. (But I won't send any of our snow.)

Donna-Jean Breckenridge said...

A beautiful family story, beautifully told. I loved reading this. Beatrice, you're amazing.

Lok said...

This was so precious to read - thank you so much for sharing!!! Beatrice must have had a bang-up Home Ec teacher! ;-)

Beatrice - WELL DONE. Truly and sincerely - well done.

Table of Stone said...

Most impressive and what a blessing! That food looks absolutely wonderful.

Owl of the Desert said...

What a blessed Thanksgiving! It looks absolutely delicious, Beatrice. My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures. Bravo.

TheHeadGirl said...

oh, goodness... could I please (if she can spare the time) have the recipe for the green bean/cranberry stuff?

lindafay said...

What a beautiful reflection of her mother.


Headmistress, zookeeper said...

None of us who know and love you are surprised that such a mother would produce such children.
Of course you see her as surpassing you- it's always been our goal to launch our children into the air, aiming for the heights- not to have them be the cabooses on our trains.

You remain, my dear friend, poetry with skin on in the mothering department.

Katie said...

My applause to Beatrice!

Unknown said...

Your daughter is beautiful inside and out. You're lucky! God Bless and good luck with your surgeries.

Dani said...

Wow! (Jaw dropped in amazement)

I would be terrified, at 22 with a husband, it's all that I can do to make day to day meals any good. Wow!

Kaleb Nation said...

And what a feast it was! The food looks great.