If you’re able, give your mother a call

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Today is Thanksgiving, a time when we gather with family and friends to give thanks for the blessings we’ve received over the past year and enjoy each other’s company.

But this year, Thanksgiving will be different for me and my family; my mother died a few weeks ago, leaving one empty place at the table and ages worth of memories.

My wife and daughter and I won’t be able to join my bother and his family and my sister this year for Thanksgiving, but we’ll share the memories of Thanksgivings past and of our parents, who are no longer with us.

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Family holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas were very important to mom. As I believe I wrote once before, mom was born in Alsace in northwest France. Her father died when she was a child and her mother had to work to support the family. I believe it was that void; that lack of a childhood that inspired her to make sure we enjoyed those two holidays. And while Thanksgiving is not celebrated in France, she went all out to make sure we had a traditional holiday dinner and everyone’s favorite dish was on the table.

And when it came to preparing that meal, there were only two people allowed to touch anything in the kitchen — mom and my maternal grandmother. When my grandmother died, Thanksgiving dinner, like many other special dinners, became a one-woman show. And though dad and my sister were allowed in for certain chores during that time, the doorway to the kitchen was the 38th Parallel (those over 50 will understand that) and anyone not cleared crossed at their own peril. My brother and I kept making excuses to cross the zone, like wanting a glass of water or wanting to go in the backyard. A basketball under the arm was the clearance.

The meal was a quiet time. Talking about school or work was not allowed. The settings were on the table and no one left hungry, although there was always that space left for mom’s lemon chiffon pie or lemon meringue pie; the recipe for either was a closely guarded secret.

Over the years, as my wife and daughter and I moved to other places, and brother and his family and mom and my sister later left Baton Rouge, the family Thanksgivings where we all gathered at one table for a big meal became fewer, replaced instead with holiday telephone calls where everyone got to say a little something. But there’s some things between me and my mother that I will miss outside of Thanksgiving, like the Sunday evening phone calls that continued until mom’s health began failing and became fewer. And the morning calls every Nov. 24 to wish me happy birthday. Those will especially be missed.

I hope all of you have a happy Thanksgiving with your families. And if she’s not with you, give your mother a call. I sure wish I could call mine.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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