Saturday, 30 November 2013

Giving Thanks

As I've said in here before, Our Cookie Journal turns out to be about more than cookies. Right now, I'm waiting for a care package from Mom that contains the Chex cereals I need to make Chex Party Mix (or my holiday is not complete!). And I made a lovely Pumpkin Pie the day before Thanksgiving and used an oak-leaf cookie cutter to make cutouts to line the pie crust. 

But it's not just because we've always loved cakes and pies and other holiday treats. Our Cookie Journal is about our friends and family, who become as much a part of these entries as they are a part of our lives. I shared photos of my pie online with my cousins, who had pictures of their pies: cherry, lemon and pumpkin. I didn't see any "nasty" Sugar Pies though. My dad's Buckeye relatives usually have those for Thanksgiving and Christmas and I've never liked them: to me, they're like Pecan Pies without the pecans!

Naturally, I thought of Dad too when I baked Pumpkin Bread because I always consult the journal to double-check the recipe and to fondly recall how much he loved to bake it (and share it) when he was alive. And my sister Lisa, co-founder of Our Cookie Journal, always makes me laugh and cry because I miss her as I bake my way through every season, and I'll never forget her Un-Pumpkin Bread. It's not that I don't think of them throughout the year — I always do — but it seems more keen at the holidays because family is so much a part of the festivities.

Heather, Aunt Mary and Dew

This year, as I look forward to Christmas cookie baking (and sharing) and as I've celebrated Thanksgiving with my son and prepared our feast, I've been enveloped in an aching sadness for my cousin, Heather Brion, who died this week.  Even though she lived in Virginia (where my aunt — her mother — also moved), I always think of her as one of my Buckeye cousins. 

We connected again on FaceBook (it really is good for some things) and I got to see her again at a Baker Bash a few years ago in Gibsonburg, Ohio. I take great pleasure in that. And I find comfort in my memories, particularly at holidays, when my father would pile us into the car and "head up home" to visit his family in Ohio, especially at Thanksgiving or Christmas. There was always a Sugar Pie and I know that Heather loved them as much as my dad did (and she'd tease me about not liking them). And it tasted of love and home and family for each of them.

The "Buckeye" cousins

So despite feeling thankful for my health, my family and all that we have, I couldn't help but feeling guilty for celebrating when poor Heather was gone and my Aunt Mary and Uncle Terry would be missing her particularly sorely. I found some solace in the fact that Heather is no longer in pain, from which she was suffering before her death as a young adult. And my aunt and uncle (and Heather's boyfriend, Dew) have the support of family and friends to help them through this difficult time. 

I find it poignant as we raised our glasses to toast her sense of humor, her fondness for animals, her strong political views and activism, and her love for her family — that she was giving of herself, even after her death. As an organ donor, Heather helped four other people in a massive way that will significantly alter some other lives forever. And those people and their families will remember this Thanksgiving as the best one ever because of the generous heart of someone they'd never met: Heather Brion, my cousin. As another Buckeye cousin, Jeanette (now living in North Carolina), put it: "What a legacy to leave."

Aunt Mary said she was going to a Thanksgiving dinner but she would not be making a Sugar Pie this year like she always has for Heather. I understand that: Mom shoved a tray of Christmas cookies onto  the floor shortly after Lisa died because the grief was just too raw to make merry, or cookies. 

But I know that one day, Aunt Mary will be able to bake a Sugar Pie again — and she'll savor the taste of love and home and family. 


  1. Yum Yum Yum you are so very talented

  2. I used to live in France - was there for 20 years. Trying to do a proper Thanksgiving (Merci Donnez) was difficult and most of those 20 years - easier when I had a job that required travel. Chex Mix, Kraft Mac and Cheese, Stove Top Stuffing... my list was long.

    1. Crazy, isn't it - the attachment we have to food, and how much it reminds us of home. It's so much easier these days, I have to admit. When Mom's not sending a package, I'm ordering from one of several online UK companies that now supply Kraft Mac & Cheese, Stove Top & all those goodies! I didn't realize you would call it Merci Donnez in France either. Thanks so much, Richard! :)