I think about her a lot this time of year. Every early memory I have of the holidays, included something special that she created in the kitchen. I carry those traditions forward as much as I can, because she meant the world to me and it keeps her close in my heart. My boys never really got to know her except through my stories, and through her recipes... which are a special part of everything we do, from Thanksgiving to Christmas. This year, her "Tote Salad" was even more important to me than usual. It's my oldest son's favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner and I think if she knew that, it would really warm her heart. He's usually here eating the bacon as fast as I can make it, but this year, he won't make it home until early in the morning (he doesn't want to miss the Monkey Bread and that happens at 9am sharp with the start of the Macy's parade.)

This is my favorite photograph of her, taken when she was just a teenager. I feel her with me more than usual today. Maybe she knows somehow, that I am missing his presence in my kitchen. Don't ever complain when little fingers keep finding their way into your food preparations... because when they aren't anymore, trust me. You'll wish with all your heart that you were sweeping all those bacon bits off your floor again.

So hold each other close and check your politics at the door. There is still so very much to be thankful for.