by Dace Starr

Thanksgiving was approaching. I scrolled through my mental rolodex of special meals I could prepare to celebrate the occasion, but my mind suddenly choked with the magnitude of the undertaking. Most holiday meals are just for my son and myself, so a full turkey dinner seemed ludicrous. So much food. So little space in my tiny kitchen with two feet of counter space and what I call my Easy-Bake toy oven. But mostly I was distressed by my ever-diminishing energy level. It’s not that I had to do it all. He was more than willing to help. But still it seemed overwhelming.

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For a few days, I sat with this gap between my desire and excitement of what I wanted to do and my sorrow and self-compassion of what I could do. Eventually, a glimmer of a solution emerged. This could be the year that we reverse the roles—he would be the chef and I would be the quiet, helpful sous-chef. The challenge for me would be to avoid helpful suggestions. But what a grand opportunity to practice letting go.

As usual, he was open to my idea and a summit meeting was called to plan the meal, shopping list and time-lines. The menu would be turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, Brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce and apple pie with vanilla gelato. Immediately new, more complicated steps were being added by the new chef. Brining the turkey for 24 hours! Placing a butter/wine soaked cheesecloth over the turkey at the beginning of the roast. And, the most outrageous suggestion to make an apple pie from scratch. Really? Do you realize this involves pastry and all the many, many things that can go wrong with trying to roll it out and fit it into the dish? Do you know about the timid cheater’s version, called Apple Crisp? Most of this was said in my head although the raised eyebrows and sudden intakes of breath were not completely missed.

And so it began. Each of us at our cutting boards, dancing cautiously around each other trying to find a space to place a bowl, a pan, a kettle. Martha Stewart’s cookbook pages increasingly spattered with constant referrals. How can it all need so much butter? 

 I stare in awe and admiration at the new chef’s fearless approach and execution of his first pie crust. It is truly a thing of beauty. It even includes decorations on top made with leftover scraps of dough. And rightly needs to be photographed on his phone and sent out to his friends for their amazement and appreciation.

The turkey is next and once it is cloaked in the buttery cheesecloth and the thermometer inserted as instructed, we sit and relax for a bit. It is all coming together nicely. Finally everything is ready and the meat thermometer confirms that the turkey has reached the correct temperature. Then the carving begins and I notice a slight pink tinge on the joint of the leg. We look at each other. I decide to speak up. “Let’s eat the mashed potatoes, gravy and sprouts now while the turkey goes back in the oven.”  Another check. “Okay, let’s have the apple pie now while the turkey finishes roasting.”  Another check. “Okay, let’s have the turkey with gravy now.” Perfection! Luckily we have no guests this year who might require an explanation. I feel doubly blessed this Thanksgiving—for the special, incredible meal itself and the magnificent son who created the memory of preparing it together.

Dace Starr participated in the Callanish retreat in November 2014 and continues to benefit from the wisdom and kindness of others who attend Callanish gatherings. She has worked for 37 years in libraries across the country, and lived in 21 different locations. She now lives more simply and peacefully - meditating, reading, writing, singing and occasionally cooking with her son.