I had a meltdown last night. A full, stand-at-the-sink and cry into the dishwater meltdown. It all started with a frozen turkey. Last year, I found 20 lb. turkeys on sale after Christmas for around five dollars. I bought a couple of them because it was an amazing deal. The problem is that there was still one in my freezer now almost a year later. This close to Thanksgiving, I did not want to make a turkey, but I also did not want to serve a year-old turkey to our guests. I got the grand idea that I would make my own ground turkey, saving us lots of money, like the women of old. So, after a really long day, dinner and cleanup, I hoisted that big bird out of the fridge and began hacking it to pieces. It wasn’t pretty. I am pretty sure that I need to bleach my entire kitchen now, and maybe even the neighbors’s kitchens too. I’ve never seen such a splashy mess.
Anyways, after fighting with wings, legs and all other unidentifiable things one can find in a turkey, I started the process of grinding. I hooked up my meat grinder attachment to my kitchen aid mixer and started the process. After a while I had a couple piles of slimy, gooey, turkey in a bowl. My grinder occasionally fired out raw essence of turkey way beyond the bowl whenever it hit an air pocket. As I worked, I noticed that the turkey kept getting stuck in the grinder, so I would take it apart, clean it out and try it again. That worked for a while until my mixer started making odd sounds. Then it slowed down. Way down. Then it got hot. I turned it off, and to my absolute horror, realized that I had just burned out the motor on my mixer. My incredibly expensive mixer. It was our first wedding gift from my husband’s parents.
As I took stock of that and slowly began trying to clean up the mess that stretched over every surface in the whole kitchen, I started to cry.
As I stood there, crying, elbow deep in hot dish water, one of my girls came in and noticed I was crying. She hugged me and ran for backup. One by one, the girls came up and just wrapped their little arms around my waist saying, “Mom, it’s OK! It’s just a mixer. It’s OK, mom!” My littlest one just hugged my waist, with her little face buried in my side, and then she looked up and said, “Mom, do you want me to make you a fried egg?” She was completely serious.
That made me laugh, and they eventually wandered back downstairs. As I kept working on the mess, I asked myself why I was so upset about this mixer. What was I crying about? Mixers can be fixed. They can be replaced. Why was this mixer so precious to me that I would cry over it? I think the answer to that question goes back to my childhood in Peru.
Being on the mission field, we did not have family around. It was just us. My parents would always invite different people to come and share the holidays with us. One lady in particular was an amazing baker. She ran a guest house for missionaries in Lima long after her husband had passed away. We called her Miss Marian. She would make cookies and cakes with us. I remember going to her house and watching her make cakes. I remember her coming to our house and reading books to us for hours on end. I remember one Thanksgiving she came and made turkey shaped sugar cookies with us. She taught us how to use the star tip and decorate them so beautifully. She had a white kitchen aid mixer. We would gather around that mixer with her and my mom and make all sorts of different things. It wasn’t really about the cookies or the cake. It was about being together. She was there when my mom needed a friend. She was there when we needed a Nana. We got to hear her stories about her life and her adult kids. We felt like we were part of something important as we gathered around that mixer and baked with her, and we were. We were three generations of women, sharing life and frosting tips. We were family.
Miss Marian loved our family well. She babysat us when my parents were in language school. She spent a lot of holidays with us, and I remember being so excited for her to open the random glass eggs we kids had picked out to wrap up and give to her for Christmas. She assured us that she loved them. I don’t know if she really loved those glass eggs or not, but I do know that she loved us.
I remember, toward the end of college, visiting Miss Marian with my mom in the States, as she was in the hospital toward the end of her life. It felt like we were saying goodbye to family. She gave my mom her white mixer.
I love that mixer. Because it’s not about the mixer at all. It’s about a lady that gave us the gift of family when we had none. So years ago, when my soon to be in-laws gave me a mixer of my own, I was almost overwhelmed. Because of what that mixer stands for. It stands for time with people. It stands for bringing people together and being family to whoever God brings through your door. It represents making little ones feel like they are part of something sacred, and bigger than themselves. It means time and stories and laughter with people that you cherish. I am sad to see my red mixer go. I am so thankful for all the memories we made around it, but mostly, I am thankful today for my Miss Marian. Thank you for loving us so well. Thank you for giving so much meaning to a mixer.