December 01, 2011


One Thanksgiving when I was very small, my grandmother taught me how to serve cranberry sauce out of a can. While I knelt on the kitchen counter and watched, she used the can opener to cut both ends, then pushed the sauce through so that it came out neatly, beautifully red and perfectly molded. 

Years later, long after my grandmother had died, my mother decided to make fancy homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. She spent all kinds of time making it, and admittedly, it tasted good, but I was horrified. “But we always have cranberry sauce that’s shaped like a tin can,” I said to her. “It’s a tradition.”

I’ve never been someone who embraces change.

If there’s someone who likes rituals even more than me, it’s Little Biker Boy, the ten-year-old who used to live down the street. When I picked him up after school, we didn’t even have to discuss where we were going. I drove straight to the pizza place in Traintrack, and he said, “Park in front of the sign, like you always do.”

I handed him the money, because he likes to be the one to pay, and he carried the pizza slices out to the car. While we ate, we talked about his week at school, his new social worker, and his weekend with his older sister. Then we drove around his old neighborhood. “Don’t forget to go down to the railroad track,” he said. “We always do that.”

So we drove down to the end of my road to watch the trains going by. When the train went by going east, I told him stories about Big City Like No Other, and we imagined what the people on the train might do when they get to the city. He knows the details by heart, even though he’s never been to the city.

When a train went by going west, I told him stories about the large midwestern city on the Great Lake. Then we went back to my house, where we sat on the kitchen floor by the heat vent and talked until it was time for me to take him back to his mother’s apartment.


Magpie said...

two things:

1) my daughter is like that. for example, if she comes to work with me, we always have lunch at the same place. and we always get ice cream for the train home.

2) next year for thanksgiving, make your own whimsically canned cranberry sauce:

Anonymous said...

1. We always have 2 kinds for just these reasons.
2. Hope BB is doing well, and I hope Ponytail is too.

Zhoen said...

I would not have liked anything but canned cranberry sauce as a kid, because the canned stuff is homogeneous and a lot like jello. Plus it has lines.

I love the real stuff now because it is chunky and not at all like jello. What did your mom do to make it complicated? Cup of water, cup of sugar, bag of cranberries, saucepan, 15 minutes, voila it's done. Nothing simpler, not even jello.

Sarah said...

Habits die hard! It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving without turkey, even if your entirely family goes veg! We generally make an exception for the gravy.

Kyla said...

I knew Magpie would post a link to that! :)

I won't eat any cranberry sauce, canned or otherwise. But I can only eat canned green beans, the crispness of the fresh ones freak me out after a childhood filled with the canned kind.

I'm a sucker for routine, too. I glad you are around to provide some of that comfort for Biker Boy.

patti said...

We make and eat cranberry sauce all winter. But reading this made me crave the canned stuff.
Maybe Biker Boy craves routine with you because he has no routine at home.

robin andrea said...

I haven't thought about canned cranberry sauce in years, but what a good reminder about opening both ends. Yes, cranberry was served sliced at our Thanksgiving table when I was young.

There is a lot of comfort in familiar routines.

kathy a. said...

we always had the canned cranberry for my dad, who hated "sticks and stones," his name for my grandmother's cranberry sauce. now we just remember that story, as we eat home made.

love that you had this time with little biker boy.