The Best Lumpy Potatoes…Ever
By Rose Ann Sinay
We were finally there. After twelve hours of playing travel games, frequent pit stops, and uncountable Are we there, yet(s) from my two impatient children, we turned onto the gravel driveway that led to my parents’ house in the foothills of Virginia. Grandma and Grandpa sat on the steps, waiting to hug their grandchildren as soon as they tumbled out of the car.
Snow dusted Christmas garland and faded red bows dipped gracefully across the porch railing of the old farmhouse; but the three-dimensional paper turkey hanging in the entry (wearing a pilgrim’s hat) proclaimed that it was really Thanksgiving. It was my mother’s way of squeezing two holidays into one short visit. The smell of just-baked apple and pumpkin pies wafted through the open door, making our mouths water as we unloaded the car.
After stretching our legs and getting settled, we migrated to the kitchen where the turkey roasted in the oven, and my father’s famous (or infamous) cabbage soup, made from memory, simmered on the converted cast iron stove. The soup and handmade pierogi were the Polish dishes added to every holiday meal in honor of my father’s heritage.
“It’s like being back in the old days,” my daughter whispered to me.
“Just how old are you grandma,” she asked out loud.
We chuckled, donned aprons and peeled potatoes over layers of newspaper while my mother rinsed the gravy boat and platters. We could hear the men cutting wood for the fireplace. My son whistled loudly, as he gathered the kindling into a growing pile.
My daughter pitched in with the cooking preparations without a single grumble. She proudly followed the instructions on one of my mother’s old recipe cards, layering sweet potatoes, brown sugar and pecans into a buttered pie plate. Her grandmother shushed me when I started to object to the mountain of miniature marshmallows dumped on top.
“Perfect,” she proclaimed, and put it in the oven.
“You did such a good job, you get to make the mashed potatoes,” her Grandmother said, handing her an old fashioned metal masher.
“We use the mixer at home,” my daughter replied, inspecting the tool from every angle.
“Not in this kitchen,” my mother said. “We need some lumps to hold on to all that delicious turkey gravy.”
Watching my little girl attack the steaming white cubes with a vengeance, adding butter and too much milk, I realized she didn’t see these dinner preparations as work. It was fun; it was an experience. We were creating a wonderful memory that we could savor and reflect upon for a lifetime.
Before we knew it, we were seated at the dinner table adorned with my mother’s best china and red linen napkins. The golden-brown turkey, big enough to feed an army, sat center stage, surrounded by cranberry sauce (both jellied and whole), green bean casserole, and those marshmallowed sweet potatoes. The coveted cabbage soup was ladled generously into our bowls.
My father raised his glass and toasted with a heartfelt “We’re so glad you’re here.”
I think I saw his eyes well up with tears; or maybe it was my eyes that filled with moisture; or maybe I prefer to remember it that way since it was the last holiday we were to spend together as a family.
“I left extra lumps in it,” my daughter said proudly as we passed the mashed potatoes and gravy around the table.
“You sure did,” Grandpa said scooping a big mound of the chunky starch onto his plate. We all laughed and covered ours in thick, brown gravy.
After dinner, we all helped to stack enough of the cut wood to last the winter, or at least our muscles thought so. Everyday chores were done without complaint. In fact, it felt good – special – cloaked in the magic of holiday and tradition.
As I climbed into bed that night, stomach full and heart content, I was truly thankful for the goodness of it all. I wouldn’t have changed one single thing, even if I known of the loss that was soon to come. It had been an ordinary day made extraordinary by family and love. It was perfect; it was Thanksgiving.
About this writer
- Rose Ann Sinay lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog where she spends her time writing. Her children graciously continue to provide her with moments worth preserving.