A time capsule perfectly timed for Thanksgiving

  • A Thanksgiving turkey stuffed Nazareth style, with long grain rice, ground lamb, pine nuts and spices.

    A Thanksgiving turkey stuffed Nazareth style, with long grain rice, ground lamb, pine nuts and spices. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

 
Posted11/21/2020 6:00 AM

I was sorting out some books and papers stacked under a coffee table when I found an envelope with a thick stack of printed emails from August-December 2012. What a time capsule! I just finished reading those printouts.

This was such a coincidence, happening right before Thanksgiving week -- because this time period covered the first Thanksgiving and first Christmas after my dear Baheej died.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Those emails were sent and received by me during the first four months alone. Apparently I put them in an envelope to keep or process later.

So, when I first found them, I briefly looked at the stack of papers, about 3 inches thick. I was astounded. It is like a diary of those first weeks and months while I was reeling from the initial impact of Baheej's death. It had been waiting for me under that coffee table for eight years.

I think it was a "sign" I found them now, because I've been feeling quite sensitive with the big holidays approaching, and now they're here.

The first thing I found in the envelope was a prayer Baheej used to say when he spotted the new moon, the crescent, each month. Translated it says: "Praise be to God and the majesty He inspires, may it be a blessed month for us all."

It was a tradition to say this prayer in Nazareth, where he was born and raised. Here he stood at a certain window in our house where he could see the moon, and recited this prayer each month. He would call me over because he said the folklore is that you get the good luck of the first person's face you see after this prayer. He thought I brought good luck.

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Just recently, I had asked my sister-in-law for the words to that prayer because I could not exactly remember. I had spotted the new moon in November and wanted to say the prayer. And in these old emails, there it was -- an email from my brother-in-law with the translation, sent to me in 2012. Now found -- just in time for the December new moon.

As I looked further into the printouts, I found many treasures and remembered so many feelings about what I did to cope during those early days. And I found a copy of a beautiful tribute Baheej's colleagues had posted on the electronic display at Columbia College Chicago, where he taught for 18 years after we moved here.

I saw a running record of what I did those initial weeks and months, and on the first Thanksgiving and first Christmas without him. I read the emails in installments.

I also have a big basket of cards and other documents, letters, sentimental items, that I've saved over the last eight years: a Baheej basket. I got the idea from my mother. She did that after my father died. So I'll put this envelope under that basket. And this week I will use the fall-colored dishes Baheej liked to use at Thanksgiving dinner. We only use them at this time of year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The point is: Holidays are difficult without my beloved and other loved ones. However, I was happy to get this sign, and this week I will prepare exactly the type of Thanksgiving dinner Baheej loved, including a turkey stuffed with Nazareth stuffing, which is not bread stuffing. It's called Hashweh (stuffing), made of long grain rice, ground lamb, pine nuts browned in butter and spices of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.

Plus I'll make a side dish of cauliflower or green beans with lamb shanks, made with garlic and same spices as the turkey and stuffing -- and a nice green salad or tabouli; a side of yogurt with garlic and shredded cucumbers (good with the hashweh).

Baheej won't be here, of course, but he will be here in spirit. I'm sure of it. I feel it's to my duty to make it a nice holiday. Memories are part of each person's time capsule. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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