This time last year we had just pulled off quite the coop by surprising my mother-in-law. It was the first time we all had the chance to see her since her cancer diagnosis only 2 months earlier. She was shocked, surprised and filled with joy to see us walk in the door to celebrate what was typically a private holiday for she and my father in law. But as luck would have it, both of her children and their families stormed the door to ring in the New Year - together, as a family.
During that visit I made it a personal mission to pack a few pounds onto her thighs. At every meal I found a way to use more butter, more cream, more fat. I wasn't sure I would be successful, but the Wednesday following New Year's I received a phone call from my mother-in-law announcing the addition of 7 pounds to the scale. I was elated, thrilled and filled with joy. More so because of the time spent together and memories made. Never could I imagine that those memories would be some of the last I had with her. But, damn, they were good.
Another New Year's Eve is upon us and it's bittersweet. Thankful and grateful for the time we shared with my mother-in-law, I wish it was as simple as turning back the clock. But since that's not possible, I can close my eyes and recall the smile on her face when we crossed the threshold of their Tennessee mountain home. I can recall the joy of her sharing a toast and herring at midnight. I can recall that our visit was one of the best times we ever had.
So tonight, as I shuffle through the kitchen cooking and cleaning, and cooking some more, she's on my mind - knowing that everything I've made for tonight she would love. Frankly, I could have sauteed dirt with pond water and she would have loved it. But, thankfully for our guests tonight, it's a little more substantial than that.
Tonight I'm making many new things. In fact, none made before. We're having Bruschetta on pan fried French Bread; Bacon and Bleu Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms; Crab Dip; Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes sauteed in Garlic Mushroom Butter; and Hazelnut Bread Pudding Praline Sauce. And to add insult to injury, Spicy Caramel Popcorn. (Even a little snack bag left in our guest room for our overnight guests.) No formal dinner or stuffy menu, just delicious food. And although I made meringues last night, I just can't find the right way to make them work on the menu. So, au revoir meringues.
As we ring in the New Year, I'll quietly remember my mother-in-law and the smile on her face. The same one she always had.