Leftovers. I imagine you have some at your house, too, unless you have little “Pacman” munchers gobbling them up. With just the two of us, the days of cooking for mammoth mouths with hollow legs is in the past. If I make too much soup or an entrée that isn’t a hubby favorite, I’ll likely have to eat the rest of it all by myself. I can’t stand to waste food, so tossing it in the garbage is not an option. I can still faintly hear my mother’s voice, “Clean up your plate. There are hungry children in China.” If I muttered under my breath, most likely she would hear, so I’d think, then ship it to them. I know, I know, not a nice reply, and I really am grateful that she taught us girls to be frugal. As an adult, however, it really doesn’t make sense to stuff myself with holiday leftovers in December, when dieting is at the top of my resolution list come January 1st. Sigh.
As I stood washing dishes after a simple meal of cornbread and veggie omelet, a couple of distant memories pushed their way into my thoughts. The first memory was of my firstborn, who passed away some years back. He loved my leftovers. They never lasted long when he came home for a visit. He quickly gobbled them up with more enthusiasm than we could muster the first time around. Of course I made his favorites when I knew he was coming, but it always made me smile to see the pleasure he got out of eating leftovers “destined for China”.
Sometimes this kid, all grown up and on his own, would show up and surprise us. He could hardly contain his excitement when he pulled open the refrigerator with, “Watcha got to eat, Mom?” He’d look high, then low. He’d move stuff around until he spied something he hadn’t eaten since he left home. Then it was time to chow down. I love this memory, although it fills my heart with sadness, too. Perhaps you have similar memories in your memory bank.
The next memory that came to mind was of my dad. He loved cornbread. I remember watching him cut a large square, hot out of the oven. He’d slice it in half, careful to not burn his fingers, slather both pieces with butter, then drizzle them generously with honey squeezed from a bear-shaped, plastic bottle. Yum! He passed the love for cornbread down to me. We still squeeze honey from a bear. Some traditions are meant to be continued and savored.
A favorite tradition in my family has been sharing ordinary meals around the table with those I love. From years gone by, I can still hear my young children chatter as they ate their food, played with it, squabbled with each other, and somehow learned some table manners along the way.
Now the holidays are over. Floured countertops covered with cookie dough have been scraped and scrubbed. Tins filled with holiday favorites are empty, except for that one lonely tin containing the last few cookies ~ too much to toss, too little to keep. It’s all been put away until next year. Family members have returned home safely, which hopefully include yours. As we carry the last scraps of tinsel and tissue paper outside to the trash receptacle, large snowflakes flutter from the skies. Winter white does not always show up on cue for Christmas morning. Maybe it will next year.
Now that you have cleaned up after Christmas, how well did you survive the holidays? On a scale from 1 – 10 how difficult was it? It’s tough having one’s mind centered on the present while aching for the ones who are no longer a part of our traditional family gatherings. I know how you feel. It still hurts. But better than calorie-laden leftovers, we can choose to make the most of new memories to cherish for all the holidays to come . . . in spite of our sorrow.