Every year I watch friends post daily thanks on Facebook during the month of November, and each year I tell myself I really should do it too. But it’s usually several days into the month before I realize what is going on, so I figure it’s too late to get started. Today, I saw a posting that instructs you to Count 1,000 Gifts during the month of November, taken from Ann Voskamp’s recently published book by that name. It’s a slightly different approach and, since it is indeed the first of the month, I’m going to try to do this challenge. I’m curious if I will be able to do this daily and if I can make it through to the end of the month. But I won’t know unless I give it a try.
I don’t have the book and I haven’t read the book. So I’m out on a limb in regards to whether I am appropriately following the rules to this exercise in giving thanks. But I’ve decided that’s okay. The goal is to give thanks, period.
Today’s thanks is for “3 Gifts Eaten.”
The first gift I want to acknowledge is red velvet cake. I first tasted this cake when I was about ten years old. One of my older sisters made the cake and brought it home for some long forgotten celebration. It was the most incredible cake I had ever eaten, and my siblings felt the same way. To this day, no person, no bakery, no restaurant can make a red velvet cake like my sister’s.
All of us fell in love with my sister’s cake and we would beg her to make it for holidays and birthdays. It was indeed a gift all by itself when presented on your birthday. And so it was March 1978 that my sister brought a red velvet cake home to celebrate my brother Mike’s birthday. By this time in our lives, both of our parents had died and there were only three of us “kids” still living in our family home. Mike was the oldest of the three of us, and this was the first of our birthdays to come along since the death of our second parent. I have no idea what went through Mike’s mind, but the words that came out of his mouth were, “Oh, you shouldn’t have made that cake. There are only three of us and it will go to waste.” My sister never brought us another red velvet cake. No matter how often we asked, we didn’t get another. I have been fortunate enough to be at other celebrations to which my sister has brought that unforgettable cake, so I have had a taste of it on rare occasions. And each time I am reminded of what a special gift it is.
The second “gift eaten” I want to acknowledge is limoncello liqueur. My husband and I spent some time in Italy in 2007, where he has family. His aunt and uncle took us to a family restaurant owned by some friends of theirs. The “restaurant” was really an extension of this family’s home and well off the beaten path. But the food was fabulous and we were treated like royalty. When we were finished with our meal, the owners brought out a jug of homemade limoncello. I had never had it before and I am not a fan of lemon flavoring, so I didn’t think I would enjoy it. The crisp, lemony delight crossed my tongue and I knew then and there that I would have to buy a bottle of Italian limoncello to bring back home.
We did purchase a bottle and brought it back with us. Waiting for a special event to come along, we finally had a chance to drink it. Sadly, it tasted nothing at all like the homemade liqueur we had in Italy. Maybe it was the brand we bought. So we went to a liquor store near our home and bought another, well-known brand. It too didn’t taste anything like that drink we had in Italy. So my husband suggested that we make our own. “If that Italian man could make homemade limoncello, why couldn’t we?” “Yeah, why couldn’t we?” I agreed.
I went online and did some research and found many, many recipes for limoncello. I printed out about a dozen and with the little cooking knowledge that I have, I put together my own recipe. The first batch was perfect! I was so surprised that it worked! And I’ve been making it ever since. I usually make a batch in early spring and another batch in late fall, that way we have some for the Easter and Christmas holidays. And we give it away as gifts to our closest friends. Everyone loves it. No one has turned down that gift. And every time I drink it, I am reminded of the wonderful vacation my husband and I had in Italy.
The last “gift eaten” that I want to acknowledge is a simple lunch that I had, today, in fact. The meal really doesn’t matter, but it was a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of cole slaw, some fresh fruit, and chocolate cake to celebrate a birthday. Yesterday was my aunt’s eightieth birthday and today I went to have lunch with her at her apartment. She is my father’s sister, the baby of her family, the youngest of twelve children. There are only two left. About a year ago, my aunt shared the sad news that just like all of her siblings who lived into old age, she too has Alzheimer’s. She is in the early stages of it, but it is progressing and sadly we all know how this will turn out. We’ve watched plenty of others go on this journey. My aunt is in good spirits, she looks healthy, and she seems happy. But she is fully aware that she is forgetting more and more, and she fears the day when she doesn’t recognize us. But for today, she did know me and we had a wonderful conversation. She asked about all of my daughters and my husband and my siblings. It may have been her birthday, but I was the one who was given the gift.