Every Thanksgiving the magic came alive in our kitchen as my mother began creating our favorite’s family holiday recipes once again. Sweet Potato Casserole was my favorite! Mom would quarter and boil sweet potatoes and then peel them into a bowl before mashing them together with fresh pineapple, cinnamon, and butter to bake. Watching her peel those steaming hot potatoes one year, I asked her how she handled them without burning herself. She replied that her hands had toughened over the years until she hardly felt it anymore, just as she knew mine would with age.
This Thanksgiving as I reached for one of those boiling hot potatoes to peel, I recalled her words. Still finding their heat intolerable on my now-almost-50-year-old hands, I got a small cup of ice water and dipped my fingers before picking up each one so they wouldn’t burn me. Smiling to myself, I thought, “See Mom? I don’t have to become calloused. All I have to do I take care of myself when challenges come along.”
What a symbolic metaphor to represent the difference between my mother and me! While I love her with all my heart, I see how strong, calloused, and ultimately overbearing my mother became, and I see what it cost her. You see, my mother was abused growing up and came to believe that she had to be stronger than others in order to take care of herself and we could never appear weak. She loved me so much she prepared me for life the same way. Ironically that never kept either of us ‘safe’ and I saw over the years how that lifestyle pushed everyone away. I learned how to relax into my inner strength, knowing it’s always there and when I need it and allowing myself to enjoy the flow of life.
As I stood in my kitchen this Thanksgiving, I wondered how many years Mom burned her fingers developing callouses to numb the pain. I wondered how she ever felt the love it she spent her life numbing herself to the pain. Funny thing about numbness: it doesn’t discriminate. I also felt her beautiful spirit, finally at peace across the veil, glad to see me living a rich, full, happy life now.
What differences are showing up for you this holiday season? Whatever the nature of our families, we learn and grow so much in those relationships throughout our lives. What new truths reflect back to you about your own growth as the generations gather?
Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving and a holiday season filled with love, joy, and deep thankfulness.