The smell of cinnamon fills the kitchen and eventually engulfs the entire house. A sign to us kids that the ooey gooey perfection would soon be pulled out of the oven by my mother #2 (aka my step-mother, Beverly) and she would then add the finishing touches with the sweet icing to balance out the buttery, cinnamony (yes, I know not a word) homemade dough. I couldn’t wait to plop a roll on a plate and pour a cup of steaming black coffee. Yum…I am making myself hungry.
This memory is more than a cinnamon roll on a plate. It takes me back to a holiday that I cherish. The memory has evolved over time as the holiday changed and family grew, but the cinnamon roll persisted. My step-mom makes these cinnamon rolls, a recipe handed down to her from her mother, almost every holiday morning such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oddly, that simple cinnamon roll brought a seemingly dysfunctional (I say this with love and appreciation for my family as you will soon realize) family together every year and still does.
Was it really only some flour, oil, egg, cinnamon, and other ingredients that brought us together? Yes! You expected me to say no, didn’t you? I realize it may seem crazy, but I really do believe that food holds a tremendous power over us all.
My parents divorced when I was young, so my brother and I grew up in the typical two-household family. We would split our holidays spending time with mom and then time with Dad. Although as a child the novelty of two Christmases seemed like a plus, this eventually wore off and holidays became a reminder that we could not have our family together all at once. One year this changed.
Beverly invited my mom to join us at my Dad’s house for Thanksgiving. My Dad and Beverly hosted my mom, step-dad, half-brother (btw, I’m only using this term for clarification here and not again how could anyone be a “half” anything), Matthew, and half sister, Hannah. It was a full house and the start of a wonderful tradition. I have jokingly referred to our holiday as “beautifully dysfunction Thanksgiving” for many years.
Thanksgiving morning always started with cinnamon rolls and LOTS of coffee. As we started to resist a second or third, dinner preparation would get underway as we each struggled to find enough counter space for our contribution. Over time our contributions had also evolved into a tradition as well. Isn’t that part of what makes a holiday special? The traditions that are passed on and the ones we choose to start.
Eventually, 3pm would approach and my dad would impatiently await the meal to be placed on the table. You will learn that my dad is a stickler for time and when we say we are going to eat at 3pm that means we are pulling out our chairs at the table at 2:55pm. This rarely happens so hunger and tempers may flare (just steer clear of my Dad) but once the food is ready and those first bites are taken, all is forgotten and smiles are radiant.
As food coma set in I would usually take a moment to appreciate how blessed I was to have all my parents and siblings and family sitting around a table in an otherwise unlikely situation. The years have passed and our families have grown which has also changed the dynamic a bit. We may not always be together for Thanksgiving, but knowing that we are sharing our family traditions even while in different cities or states connects us in some way.
This past Thanksgiving came and went with a few glitches (my husband had to work Thanksgiving morning and my three year old got hand, foot, and mouth virus on Wednesday) but it was a wonderful day. My parents joined our small family of four and I thought about how meaningful food is to a family and pretty much everything.
Remember that cinnamon roll I described in the beginning? Are you still drooling? I am as is my almost four year old son who helped Grammie make cinnamon rolls this year and is now fixated on having them every weekend. Why not, right? Well, that cinnamon roll is not the end all-be-all of Thanksgiving, but it sure holds significant value. Throughout the year, we all reminisce about the roll and our anticipation of it again at our next Thanksgiving. Then, we get excited to cook together. This food, whether it be a cinnamon roll or turkey or whatever, brings us together at the table. Memories are formed and tummies are filled.
Happy Thanksgiving! (Yes, I do know that is a belated sentiment)
Let’s all find ways to appreciate food a bit more through this holiday season.