Pastor's wife: Families generate lasting memories around the holidays


I spent most of Wednesday in the kitchen.

It was the day before Thanksgiving and there were eggs to devil, sweet potatoes to mash, pies, and banana pudding to be made.

It was the first time ever that I was doing it all by myself.  My beloved had gotten all the groceries; he’s the captain of Team Reed.  This year, we were the oldest.  We were the hosts.

As I chopped, mashed, and cooked, I pondered all the loved one’s who’d chopped, mashed, and cooked before me.  There were loads.

For years, my mother-in-law welcomed us into her home on Thanksgiving.  It was an eight-hour trip one way and worth it.  The smells when we arrived there in the middle of the night seeped all the way into our bone marrow.  (We still talk about it.)  The ham was already baking and always ginormous.  It looked like she had just cut the legs off a pig.  We could almost taste the pineapple she had strategically arranged all over it.  There were so many other delicious treats we enjoyed at her house: greens, black-eyed peas, but the ham was the top liner.  Somehow in her tiny oven, she was able to also squeeze in a turkey plus cornbread dressing (not stuffing because it’s not in the bird) baked in a cast iron skillet.  Though I hadn’t helped her cook anything, I was a ninja dishwasher upon my arrival.

After my beloved’s mom passed away, we held the festivities here at the parsonage.  Hosting saved my siblings over an hour of travel time each way.  My mom brought a carload of food.  How she maneuvered it all on the road without spillage, I’ll never know.  Her vehicle looked like a food truck and she loved it.  She brought the turkey, the sweet pots, chocolate pie, cranberry sauce, and a bunch of other stuff.  I marveled as I helped carry it from the car. 

This year as I prepped in my own kitchen, I pondered my mom and mother-in-law -- both gone now.  What treasures they were.  What blessings!  I wondered what they would do in heaven on Thanksgiving.

My Aunt Pat is also in heaven.  She always helped my mom back in the day and made the BEST deviled eggs.  I remember her and my mom hand cutting celery and onions (like my grandmother had) for my mom’s bread dressing.  They cut the tiniest pieces-without a food processor.  My Aunt Pat showed me to strip the strings off the celery. 

Before and after my beloved became a pastor, we’ve been fed by many a good cook.  They came to mind as I layered pudding, vanilla wafers, and bananas.

One generation teaches the next how to do so many things.  Paul wrote to Titus (Titus 2) to have the older women teach the younger women self-control, to love their husbands and children, and other good things.  I wonder if cooking was involved.  Countless experienced cooks have invested in my culinary education.  I couldn’t tell you how many ladies it took to help me learn to make gravy.

As I serve family and friends this year, I realize it’s not just me at work.  It’s all those who came before me and helped me.  I’m so thankful for each one.

Now it will be our home where the smell of ham stirs salivary glands and good memories.  It’s our place that loved ones will squeeze around the table.  It’s our turn.

Dawn Reed is a pastor's wife and newspaper columnist. Reach her at