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  • Stella Tessler

ABOVE THE FOLD: You Light Up My Life

November 30, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend. I hope yours was full of joy, warm food and happy memories. I know that's not the case for all of us. So, for those who experienced sadness, grief or longing for a loved one far away, please know you were thought of with love.

I'm missing my mom. So much. Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. I remember my grandparents coming to my house when I was little. My grandparents would bring shopping bags of food from Finast (I'm going in the way back machine now). Out would come the canned black pitted olives, green olives with the "red stuff in the middle," little baby gherkin pickles and canned cranberry sauce (my grandfather's favorite).

My grandmother and I would construct the "relish tray." Not sure why it was called a relish tray, but that was our chore. We'd open a can of black olives (our favorite) using my mother's brand new electric can opener. I felt so fancy using that thing. My grandmother and I would eat a whole can of olives before we filled the beautiful crystal relish tray with its specialized compartments. It's amazing how delicious canned food looks when served in crystal.

My mother was the most amazing baker. She was amazing at pretty much everything (sewing, knitting, crocheting, cooking, baking, decorating). The holidays were her time to really show off her skills. I still remember how excited she was to get her "Super Shooter." We had hundreds and hundreds of cookies to decorate each year.

She'd make my favorite Greek cookie, kourambiedes. Those little bad boys would literally melt in my mouth. They would be covered in confectioners sugar with a hint of Ouzo and the crunch of the slivered almonds. I would do my best to be neat, but one bite and I would be covered in white sugar. I know I'll never have a cookie like that again in my life.

These memories are pouring into my heart and soul this week. Yesterday was my late grandmother's birthday. My mom will be gone for two years this February. I also experienced my first Thanksgiving without any of my children. I've been weepy and feeling a little lost. Remembering can do that. It can also bring laughter.

My mom could do anything. Except sing. She loved to sing. But, truly, she sucked. It was bad. Really bad (although, I'd do anything to hear her singing right now). Her favorite song was, Edelweiss. But, the one she belted out was, You Light Up My Life. I can see her, standing in front of the sink washing dishes, singing at the top of her lungs. She'd be half-laughing and half-serious, with that stunning smile and her twinkling blue eyes.

These two women, my Grandma Rose and my mom, brought all the light into my childhood. The laughter, the silliness, the traditions...all of it was filled with light. They lit up my life. They still do.


Stella lives in Miller Place, NY and Orlando, FL (mostly Miller Place, these days) with her husband, Dan, and her loving and lazy yellow lab, Toby. She's the mom of three totally self-sufficient adults (serious shout-out here, folks). She's crazy in love with her gorgeous and brilliant grandchildren, James and Lilly (not named for Harry Potter's parents, but love the connection). She's the Co-Founder of eleven07 Main, a Public Relations Firm, located in New York. Cooking for those she loves is her passion. In all she does, she lives by the motto: Pay It Forward.

© Copyright, 2019 by Stella Tessler.

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