Thankful for Pickled Beets

Thanksgiving was my Grandma’s holiday. She owned it like a boss. It was her birthday, plus Thanksgiving, and the mission was clear: fill the Taopi town hall with her family. Grandma is gone now and new traditions have replaced the old trek to the drafty hall. I miss the bent folding chairs and being paraded on the town stage.

I have two feet planted squarely in middle age and have never bought pickled beets till this year, because Grandma isn’t here to make them anymore. I saved her last beets until I needed to google shelf times, safety and canning. My sister made a commemorative batch, but it wasn’t the same. Nothing is as good as the loving original.

Grief is the thing that makes your throat hurt when you’re past the point of crying. I stood in the grocery aisle staring at a jar of beets this week and my throat hurt a little. “Are you finding everything, Ma’am?” My voice cracked on “yes.”.

This month I met with two families that have lost their children and wanted to set up scholarship funds in their memory. And I heard it again, the voice crack. Their throats hurt a little. Those hearts bear scars that they will never show to the world, but will smile this spring giving scholarship money to someone else’s child.

The dark side of holidays is the simple truth that sometimes they suck for others. It’s hard to celebrate when your heart hurts, but celebrate we must. I think it’s important to be thankful for a life well lived, however short or long. It’s also good to give an extra squeeze whenever you hear someone’s voice crack. This Thanksgiving let us be thankful for those that are gathered around our table and the empty chairs that we wish were still filled.

If I were to assemble my favorite meal, it would have Grandma’s pickled beets, my mom’s chocolate cake, Willie’s fish, Jan’s deviled eggs, and my husband’s steak. Some of these people are living and some are not, but I’m thankful for all of them. Who makes your perfect meal? Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Keep sharing moxie.