My Sister Feeds Me
We will officially acknowledge things we are thankful for in our lives on the day of recognition known as Thanksgiving Day. Some will spend all or part of this day with family or friends who wear the label of family. Some will spend the day alone or with strangers. My day will be repetitive of my family beginnings.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be on the television. I will watch while adhering to the rituals of morning preparations for a day of visitation, food, and football. I will iron my clothes in tribute to our grandmother whose occupations included a home laundry service where she washed and ironed other people’s clothes. My sister will call to update me on the time her food will be ready to serve. I will be slightly late in my arrival, on purpose. As I am the older sister, she still can’t tell me what to do.
Memories of past Thanksgivings will drift through my thoughts all day. On my ride to my sister’s house, I will have a conversation with our mother, Louise, who joined the Ancestors in 2010. It’s a repetitive conversation: “I can’t believe Milly is cooking. She never assisted in the kitchen while we were growing up. She didn’t prep any food. She didn’t wash any dishes. She occasionally wandered into the kitchen to observe the progression of the meal or her favorite parts of the meal. She’d return to the family room and watch a movie or nap.”
I’ll ask our mother if she told Milly to feed me. It was the first Thanksgiving after her death that Milly invited me to come eat with her. Prior to that we always met at Mama’s house. I was pleasantly impressed with Milly’s culinary skill. I was shocked that she duplicated our mother’s cornbread dressing. I’d never attempted to make dressing. I worked at Pfeifer Camp “feeding the children” as part of my responsibilities for a couple of years, and I would call my grandmother and occasionally my mother for instruction on how they prepared a particular item.
I never thought to attempt to prepare the cornbread dressing. My sister seems to have developed the skill through her nostrils because I never witnessed her participating in the preparation or the process other than by smelling the results of each stage. Yet, she inherited the ability to make the dressing my mother made.
My mother inherited the skill from her mother, Mama Lillie. I have older relatives who still speak appreciatively of this dish made by either woman. Now, I must add my sister, as she represents for our generation a dish that may date to our earliest Ancestor.
By Rhonda Stewart, CALS Butler Center/Roberts Library genealogy and local history specialist