As the holiday season is upon us, I look back on many wonderful memories of my mother-in-law, Emerald.
At Christmas, Em would absolutely shine. It was her chance to fill stockings, make cookies and give gifts. Most importantly, it was her chance to show love the best way she knew how – by her cooking.
Em treated Christmas a little different than my own mom did – mostly because of the difference in size of each of their families. I was raised in a family of ten. My mom was always cooking for a crowd. In contrast, my husband’s family was very small.
Em loved to make Christmas dinner, and she also cooked for a crowd, even though it was usually just her sister, my hubby and me, and our two children. She would make ham and then put in a beef roast for “anyone who didn’t like ham”. I would laugh, wondering who this “anyone” was. Being from a big family, I would eat anything you put in front of me and appreciate it.
Adding to the meats would be mashed potatoes, multiple veggies, stuffing, dinner rolls, cranberry, fruit salad, chocolate cake, three pies, and of course, there would be dessert: home-made candy and cookies. You get the idea. We ate until we couldn’t breathe.
She always sent the leftovers home with us. It gave her pleasure to know that she was feeding us for a week.
As we were loading up the car with our gifts and many bags stuffed with glass-covered dishes, she would say, “Don’t forget to take the food out of the car when you get home,” as if we might forget. She would follow the car out of the driveway, waving goodbye, and repeating, “Remember to take the food out of the car.”
After driving from her house in Green Bay to our house in Sheboygan, and arriving at home an hour later, the phone would be ringing. We would answer it to hear, “Where have you been? Did you take the food out of the car?” Apparently, she had never traveled with two toddlers.
Looking back, I still smile, remembering how much of a sweet worrier she was and how she showed her love with food, as many women of her generation did.
I also remember thinking about how my own mom would have handled that differently.
Mom showed her love with food too, but there were never leftovers. Did I mention eight kids. But, if there had been leftovers sent home, my practical mom would never have reminded me to take food out of the car. She would have figured that if you were foolish enough to leave perfectly good food in the car, it would be a good lesson to you not to make that mistake again.
Let’s fondly remember those who made memories with their wonderful meals. Folks, make one of your grandma’s recipes for the family and share the love yet again. She will be smiling down knowing you are carrying on her tradition.