Lately when I gather with family members, there is a moment that crystallizes for me just how blessed we are. This weekend, that moment came around 7 a.m. Thursday. That is the precise time my 75-year-old mother began seasoning the bird. Cecil Duerson is a woman of order who follows her word to the letter.
My husband Joe knows this. He is up and ready to go at 6 a.m. I get up a few minutes later, shower and dress and come downstairs around 6:45. As we go downstairs, we pass our college girl Imani in the hallway. She is up for the lesson. She is eager to learn from the master chef. Nobody gets it done like ReRe.
Downstairs, ReRe has already washed the 25-pound bird and is lining the pan with sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil to wrap the bird up tight. She gives Joe and I our instructions. Lift the bird onto a cookie sheet. We will season it there. Pour salt, pepper and garlic into my hand so i can put it inside the cavity. Shake the salt and pepper and garlic all over the outside of the bird after you rub it down with plenty of butter. I’ve seen her do this countless times, yet my turkey is never as flavorful and juicy as hers. The lesson continues.
I’m not sure this big bird fit into your roaster. I knew I should have brought my big roaster. Still no sign of Imani. It’s a tight squeeze but the bird fits into the roaster. We pour in a cup of water and Joe hoists the bird into the oven. We’re cooking it on 450 degrees. It will be ready in four hours. Oops I remind her, we forgot the celery. Out goes the bird, the celery is cleaned in no time, and the bird is back in its rightful place. The centerpiece of our meal is on its way to being ready. A half hour later, Imani comes downstairs. You missed the lesson Imani, next time.
It’s amazing how simple things can bring so much joy if we take a moment to slow down and reflect on our blessings. No day is promised, each day is a gift. A few months ago, my mother wasn’t up to making the trip from Kentucky to Atlanta. Her body was filled with pain from several sources. The pain was constant. She and her doctors were trying to figure out the best treatment plan. Each time I talked with her, I could hear the frustration in her voice. When I talked with my father, he too was concerned. With six grandchildren, three great-grands and a host of relatives and friends, they are always on the go. This was slowing them down.
Suddenly, there is a breakthrough. Life slowly begins returning to normal. Then the call comes. We are coming to your house for Thanksgiving. We will bring the turkey and homemade rolls! Of course you will. Some traditions never change; providing the heart of the meal is one of them.
As three generations of Duerson women busied ourselves in my kitchen Thursday making new dishes and old I know there will come a time when we won’t be together like this. I am thankful for every moment. Their love is all I need.