Melanie Plenda, NH

Senior Writer

Melanie is an award winning freelance journalist, writer, and mom. She loves her babies, and her writing too. She also likes loosely paraphrasing Tom Petty occasionally. The best advice she got was from her mother who said, in conversation, when in doubt, ask the person questions about themselves, then, really listen to the answers. These wise words and her natural curiosity has helped her tell stories featured in The Atlantic.com, The Daily Beast, Parents, Salon, and a myriad of other regional, national, and corporate outlets. Now, she wants to tell your story.

As a Story Terrace writer, Melanie interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

The Making of the Dressing

Thanksgiving–a time for good food, family, and cozy cheer. What goes better with those things than small children, knives, and hot stoves? Nothing! If you’re from my clan.

In my family, the idea of allowing children to be involved in Thanksgiving at all levels is an old and dangerous one that manifested in The Making of the Dressing. Caps intended, as this was not a mere task, but an event that included the Elvis Christmas album played on a loop.

I should explain, by dressing I mean stuffing. We call it dressing because we’re from Michigan and because my family makes up words for things that already have words because ours are better. It’s also important to mention that this tradition came before things like “safety” and “good sense in child rearing,” so, really, I’m lucky to be alive and in full possession of all my digits.

This tradition started as any good tradition in my life, with my mom. She loved holidays – like more than was healthy, but still stayed in the charming range, mostly, kind of love. This tradition hit stride when my brother and sister went away to college. They’d come home the day before Thanksgiving ergo The Making of the Dressing was a way to really force some family fun to happen.

The table was lined with brown paper bags and loaded with apples, celery and onions. I always got the apples. My mom thought they were the least dangerous food for kids. Yes, mom, cutting slick, round, apples with a dull paring knife was totally the safest bet. They sure thought different thoughts in the ‘80s.

There we were, my brother and sister shaking off their college cool, giggling at giving my dad the business or at me and my mom singing and chair dancing to Elvis, my knife flinging apple bits onto the wallpaper.

With all the ingredients in one pot, stowed safely in the oven, we were left with just us. My brother and sister would usually head out with their friends. But sometimes, we all lingered at the table just a little while longer.

Eventually, I moved away. The first year they did The Making of the Dressing without me, they set my picture on the table with an apple in front of it. They sang “The Making of the Dressing” song over the phone. Homesick never hurt so bad.

We still do The Making of the Dressing, but with my new clan. We’re a man down without mom. But we do as we have always done. We line the table, let the babies handle the knives (carefully) and crank up Elvis. On the table is a picture of my mom, with an apple, surrounded by the love, family, and tradition she started so long ago.

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