You’ve probably heard that Christmas carol, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays?” There’s a line that goes: “If you want to be happy in a million ways/For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.”
Except for last Christmas, when I shamed my ancestors and the state of Idaho.
My family hails from that great state, home of the humble Potato (“Potato” is capitalized in my family; we’re related.) We grew up in the mountains outside of Pocatello and these Trustworthy Tubers were at the root of our existence. Dad grew a huge crop, enough to feed the seven of us with plenty to store for the winter. My sister trudged home from her job at the potato chip factory reeking of the starch of ten million Potato peels.
We ate Potatoes in every imaginable way, but the family favorite is still mashed Potatoes. As any self-respecting Idahoan knows, the making of mashed Potatoes is an art. Even more sacred is the ultimate topping, Gravy. My mother is the Goddess of Gravy, and before every holiday meal she magically prepares it while I watch in open-mouthed awe. Only recently was I allowed to touch the gravy pan. I am fifty-six.
How did I fall from Gravy Grace? At last year’s post-Christmas dinner clean-up, I lost in seconds the honor it took me years to earn. The cleanup began like any other. We moved like sluggish zombies after a feed. My older sister stood at the kitchen sink, muttering Idaho-grown oaths like, “Great Grandma Grunt,” and “Criminently.” My older brother, the patient one, picked the meat off the turkey, humming one of his original songs. Mom and I transferred food into containers, dreaming of pie even as we compared heartburn notes.
I picked up the Gravy pan with both hands, scraping Gravy into a container. I put the pan in the sink. My sister shrieked and snatched the pan out of the dishwater, but it was too late—soapy water had mixed with the precious nectar I had left behind. Dread slapped me like a wet dishtowel. I had wasted two tablespoons of Gravy.
The kitchen turned deathly still, all eyes boring into me. I backed up against the counter.
“Why?” My brother eyed me dolefully. “Why have you done this…heinous…thing?”
We stood in a shameful tableau, the weight of their disappointment falling on me like a bad cake. I hung my head in shame—Gravy shame.
“I couldn’t help it,” I squeaked. “I am made stupid by piggery.”
They did not disagree.
“I’m sorry,” I gulped.
My mother shook her head. “Sorry doesn’t bring the Gravy back.”
How could I escape this shame spiral? Would my family ever forgive me? Most crucial of all, would I be allowed pie?
I kneeled and grabbed my mother’s pant legs. “I do so swear, dear Goddess; I will never waste Gravy again. I will lick that pan clean if it will bring your sweet forgiveness. Please, I beg of you, for I am sore ashamed.”
Eyebrows rose at my fervent plea.
My mother touched the top of my head and looked kindly upon me. “I see that you are sincere and I will ponder the matter. Get up,” she commanded. “There is still work to be done.”
I let out my breath. I would be forgiven—someday.
Now as another Christmas dinner nears, I’m riddled with questions: Had I regained my family’s esteem? Could I ever cross the border of Idaho with my head held high? Would I be allowed to touch the gravy pan, or would I have to, as the Goddess says, “take an old cold tater and wait?”
The morale of this story is there’s no place like home for the holidays as long as you don’t waste the gravy.
She spent her childhood running wild on an Idaho mountainside. Although she’s lived across the U.S., she is still an Idahoan at heart and a notorious potato pusher. She has a degree in Human Services and worked as a roofer, a hoofer, a computer data entry operator and a stay-at-home mom.
Music has ruled Jennifer’s world since birth. She shimmied out of the womb with a bad case of Boogie Fever, but soon fell in love with the lyrics, how the words fit together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. Jennifer has dreamt of writing romances since reading Wuthering Heights at the tender age of twelve, and now lives that dream, using music on a daily basis to uplift and inspire her writing. It’s no coincidence that Ian, the hero in Mercy of the Moon, uses music to win heroine Maggie’s heart.
She lives in rural Florida with her husband and Great Dane puppy, and enjoys frequent visits from her three grandchildren and three grown children. She feverishly lobbies for the return of breeches and would really love to see her husband of thirty-five years in a pair. Jennifer can be found online at: JenniferTaylorWrites.com