It’s Thursday morning, and I just finished up my contribution for dinner tonight. I get to bring dessert, sweet potato casserole, corn, and …mashed potatoes.
I had peeled the potatoes last night and let them sit in cold water overnight, just like I remember my “Grannie” and mom doing. I boiled them this morning and then got out the electric mixer to beat those potatoes…and as soon as those beaters started to spin, I could remember, “Now don’t add the milk too quickly….they’ll get lumpy that way…”
As the steam rose from the potatoes, and those beaters spun around, I could literally remember standing at the counter next to my “Papa Les”, and watching those potatoes go from round to bumpy to smooth. I can remember having the privilege of him letting me add the milk “S L O W L Y…” Then I remember the satisfaction of seeing that pat of butter (a big pat, not a little one, and butter, not margerine…) slowly melt in the middle of the potatoes. Then came more salt and pepper.
You see, it was Papa Les’ job to make the potatoes every year. He was good at it and they always came out so smooth. Probably from the time I could peek over the counter, I was by his side while he mashed the potatoes. When he started the task, we all knew that it was close to time to sit down and FEAST. I loved to watch, but even more than that, I loved to eat those mashed potatoes. They were my favorite part of the meal.
He taught me more about mashed potatoes. You see, there’s an art to having plenty of gravy for the whole serving of mashed potatoes. You take your spoon and “make a pond” then carefully pour that gravy from the gravy boat into that indentation in the white mound on your plate. I can remember as a kid feeling such a sense of accomplishment at making that mound just right to add the little pond.
Then came the year that he passed the beaters to me. I stood next to him in the kitchen, not as a little girl peeking over the counter, but as a young teenager who was taller than he was, and he handed me the mixer. Oh the pressure!! I mean he was like this master masher, and it was for the whole extended family. But he stood by me and counseled if I needed to do a little more of this or a little more of that. Having him stand next to my while I mashed, well, that was what made it a joy to do rather than a task with the pressure for it to be perfect. He trusted me to do it and that was enough.
It still amazes me that I can go back to that little girl in my memories so quickly. I can go back to that teenager as well. It amazes me that he has been gone for over 3 and 1/2 decades….DECADES…and I still remember those moments like it was yesterday. Yesterday. Mashing potatoes is such an ordinary everyday thing. I mean it’s no big deal, right? Right. But, for me, it is kind of a big deal, because I still remember the pride and the joy of presenting those mashed potatoes that were made with love and TLC and the little tips that were passed down through the ages. I remembered as I mashed them this morning, and I’ll remember next year, and I’ll smile with gratitude at the legacy of a man who knew what so many teachers know….learning often comes best when using the strategy of “I DO, WE DO, YOU DO.”
I’m thankful that my Papa Les wasn’t the only one who used this method of passing on lessons to the next generation. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends,…there are so many who have walked alongside me in the big and little things and first shown the “I Do”….I’ll show you what I know. And then, this oh-so-crucial-piece of the puzzle is the “WE do. We don’t leave them alone to master a task before they’re ready. We stand and wait and watch and quietly lead when necessary. And then, then we pass the torch…and watch us they tackle the “I DO.”
So, on this ThanksGiving morning, I just want to remind us that it’s so not about the potatoes. It’s not about the perfection of the feast. I mean even in the ‘lumpy’ years, there can be lessons learned and joy in the knowing that even lumpy mashed potatoes taste great with gravy. We have a list of family faux pas of making a turkey (like, “Oops! Where are the giblets?!!”) and often those stories can bring a lot of laughter in the remembering. When seen through the eyes of grace and gratitude of enjoying the “WE”, it is so easier to enjoy the “WE”. Food seems to taste a whole lot better seasoned with grace.
I also want to remind you that it IS so about the potatoes. I remember Papa Les EVERY time I mash potatoes. Every single time. That seems crazy, but it’s so not. Because we matter. Our family matters, and when we’re side by side in the little things, they have a way of becoming big. It’s about the memories made and legacies taught and confidence built in the little tasks that we do side by side. We all have memories triggered by the familiar, and they come with the stuff of life that is so ordinary being made ‘extra ordinary’ by the ones who are alongside us in the process.
I hope that you and yours have a wonderful ThanksGiving and know you’re loved. Even if you’re not sitting at a table filled with family or friends, you are so LOVED. The Bible says so. He loves us with an everlasting love. Not minutes, years, decades, but everlasting, eternal… That’s an amazing love. Some years the table may be full and the mashed potatoes absolutely perfect. Other years, well, things happen and will be so different from what we might have wanted, like lumpy mashed potatoes… but even in those years, may we focus on truth of knowing that we are loved.
God sees it all, and is there to say “WE DO”. Like my grandfather’s quiet presence, He is there and waits for us to come and be ready to watch and learn and enjoy the process of walking with Him through the ordinary stuff of life, that is often so not ordinary. His grace has a way of making even the most ordinary of tasks extraordinary…even mashing potatoes. Even when we are alone, He says, “We do…” And when offered to Him, even the most ordinary of things can encourage us and those around us…even mashed potatoes.
Oh, and one more thing. For those of you who feel the weight of having the perfect meal, I just want to remind you (and me), that as that little girl looking over the counter, I don’t remember how clean the kitchen was, or what people were wearing, I just remember feeling loved as I was included in the most ordinary-of-tasks-turned-sacred of mashing potatoes next to my grandfather. Those little eyes watching (or not so little) might just want to be a part of the “WE” <3. Am thinking we all do. Prayers that we are present today with the ones in our midst–whether it’s at the table, or on the job, or even alone, because sometimes, sometimes, the one we need to give the most grace to is ourselves. Just a thought.
Blessings to You and Yours, Friends~