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Guest Column - Dressing

December 1, 2018

Brian McKenna
Dressing cakes are a McKenna family secret, of which you may or may not be aware. Long story short, though, we make our dressing (aka stuffing) from scratch and on the morning of the fourth Thursday in November we form the dressing into patties, fry them in a skillet with an unhealthy amount of butter, and serve them up with eggs and bacon (bacon's presence depends on which McKenna is cooking).

In recent years Jennifer and I have headed west to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws and, as good mid-westerners, they politely partake in this traditional breakfast (visibly not their favorite, but they're too nice to say as much). Surprisingly, though, the classic in-law schtick is NOT where I'm going with this. Instead it's to an obscure moment that happens every time I start to make the stuffing the night before Thanksgiving. I go to my laptop, log in to my hotmail account (yes, hotmail), and find the folder named recipes. In that folder sits an e-mail Dad sent me in 2004 with the recipe, which I review every year on that one night. Step number one, wash hands...

This year was no different. Last Wednesday I was packed in a corner of the kitchen surrounded by in-laws, with a gaggle of little ones around our ankles, trying to read through this e-mail and mixing all of the ingredients. My hands were a mess and I was using a knuckle on my pinky to scroll through the e-mail, when I somehow managed to delete it. No big deal I assumed, I just needed to grab it back out of deleted items, but it wasn't there... It wasn't anywhere (stupid computers). I'll save you the suspense, I did finally find the e-mail, but not until my blood pressure went through the roof, panic had set in, and Jennifer came in to save the day.

How bizarre, right? Surely, I could have just picked up the phone and given Dad a call or shot him a note and asked for the recipe again. But it was more than that. Losing that e-mail would have been losing an artifact. That e-mail was from 14 years ago. Five kids ago. This money pit of a house ago. A continent ago. A lifetime ago. It was our first Thanksgiving after college, in London, and without family. It has a childhood nickname I haven't heard in some 10 years and another term of endearment I use with my girls today. The oft quoted axiom is 'a picture is worth a thousand words, which is true, but in this instance, that e-mail does for me more than a picture could never do.

Today, as a father going into the Christmas season, I feel the pressure to make every moment magical. Every present needs to be huge and awesome. If there's not a wow factor, how will they ever remember what happened, right? Talk about panic inducing! But, you know what? The memories aren't going to be found wrapped up with ribbons and bows. They rarely can be intentionally created. They're found in candid photos, mementos from trips, or seemingly insignificant e-mails with a family recipe for a meal no one's ever heard of (nor cared to). Certainly makes me wonder what other artifacts I unwittingly have kicking around and back to what moment they can take me...

Author: Brian McKenna
Sally Sugarman (Club Member & Windmill Editor)

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