On Tragedy, Family and Food

I am not the kind of person who likes to keep their head in the sand; in fact quite the opposite. But as a new mom, I’ve actually tried to put earmuffs on during the news over the past few days since the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT. I really haven’t wanted to hear the details, it is too horrible to wrap my head around.

And somewhere in my attempts to not think about this tragedy I had what I consider perhaps a random thought: every year these families will associate holiday time with this tragedy. Their holiday will forever be tainted. And then I realized – if you lose your child to a shooting, does it really matter if Christmastime will hang under a cloud? And whether the shooting happened or not during this season, holiday time is always difficult when you have experienced such loss.

I lost my mother when I was sixteen years old and each year I find myself in sadness during this season. My mother loved Christmas, loved the family time and loved holiday traditions. Each year I would help her decorate cookies, an activity I gave up because it reminded me too much of her. Last year, however, I started making holiday cookies again for my husband’s office and it brought me so much joy its hard to put into precise words.

My mother always made Thanksgiving, and my fondest memories of holidays happened in our dining room, a folding table pushed up against our not-quite-large-enough dining room table. I would wake up on Thanksgiving morning to the distinctive smell of turkey roasting. And the sound of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would follow shortly after as I lay in bed hoping to get just a few more precious moments of sleeping late into my day.

We always went around the table to say what we were thankful for.  Being an extraordinarily precocious child my goal was always to find a snarky response that would elicit a laugh from my older cousins. One of the most memorable Thanksgiving dinners was when my mother lit the entire front of her sweater on fire, a story we still love to recount, exaggerating it a bit further each time. There were two kinds of stuffing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, three kinds of pie and a large basket of Pillsbury biscuits.

I had somehow forgotten about those buttery, canned biscuits until my pregnancy cravings got the better of me last Thanksgiving and I had a tearful meltdown that I MUST have Pillsbury biscuits. Immediately. My husband dutifully went to the supermarket with me mere hours before dinner at his mother’s, where we bought three cans of the biscuits. They were gobbled up as quickly as I had remembered from my childhood, and I was brought back instantaneously to my dining room table. We ate Pillsbury biscuits again this year, and I hope it will continue to be a tradition from here on.

These memories have come flooding to me as I think about what the families of Newtown will experience on Christmas, New Years, Passover, or Rosh Hoshanah. This year, next year, and for many, many years.

After fifteen years since my mother passed its a blessing to find joy once again in these holiday memories. I pray for the many families affected this week that one day they will be able to find joy in happy memories, family traditions and holiday gatherings.

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